Communication and Coordination in Migration Management

Katharina Lumpp
UNHCR Turkey Representative

For the last six years, Turkey has been hosting to the world’s largest asylum-seeker and refugee population of nearly 4 million, 3.6 million of whom are Syrians under temporary protection. Only 1.6% of this population (around 59,000 people) live in Temporary Accommodation Centers; the vast majority live in and around cities or in the rural areas of Turkey’s 81 provinces.

Turkey’s refugee response is based on the Law on Foreigners and International Protection and Temporary Protection Regulations, the comprehensive legal framework that forms the basis for registration, documentation, and access to services including health, education, and social services. In implementing the legal framework, Turkey follows a policy of involving refugees in the services provided through public systems at the national, provincial, and local levels. Together with other stakeholders, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) Turkey has supported Turkey’s refugee response by helping increase the refugee response capacity of the host community and institutions addressing the needs of both the refugees and the host community. Like the rest of the world in 2020, Turkey has faced the COVID-19 pandemic, an unusual humanitarian challenge affecting both health emergencies and everyone else, albeit unequally. In this particular context, allowing everyone including refugees and asylum seekers to have access to the relevant information and necessary medical care and to be included in the response is essential.

One of the priorities of UNHCR Turkey, which works in close collaboration with the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM), the Ministry of Health, other government agencies and partners, in particular the World Health Organization, has been to increase information and communications in the relevant languages with asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey in order to support Turkey’s emergency response to the effects of COVID-19. The focus of these efforts is to contribute to refugees’ access to information on the measures Turkey implements as well as having them be fully informed about the pandemic and methods of prevention. The nationwide UNHCR Hotline has switched to working remotely and continues to provide information on COVID-19 and other services by maintaining its functionality. In addition to social media outreach, a Communication Tree has been developed that includes refugees and partners who play a role in messages related to the pandemic being more powerfully disseminated. 

The UNHCR Hotline has been operating uninterruptedly as a fully remote working method since March 23, 2020 and through services, procedures, referrals, and existing support mechanisms has allowed individuals under temporary and international protection to access the relevant information and consultancy in different languages, alongside the government’s COVID-19 messages. An elevated increase in the rate of financial aid requests due to the effects of COVID-19 are observed in the calls made to the hotline.

Similarly, UNHCR’s online communication platforms have become important tools in conveying information on how to access assistance using the measures, available services, public announcements and recommendations in addition to information about COVID-19, sharing the information in Arabic, Persian, English, and Turkish. COVID-19 awareness posts and videos are shared almost daily in coordination with the United Nations and the Republic of Turkey.

A special tab has been added to the Help website ( with important announcements, questions and answers, resources, and useful links about COVID-19 in four languages (English, Turkish, Arabic, and French).

UNHCR has created and implemented the WhatsApp Communication Tree, a tool that facilitates fast, zero-cost information sharing between UNHCR and refugees/asylum seekers through contacts and work partners.

UNHCR regularly shares up-to-date information about services, curfew announcements, and other measures on the UNHCR Turkey Information Board Facebook page. Page views increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating the importance of informing refugee communities in their native language. For example, over a period of 4 months during the pandemic, access to the page increased 800%, the number of followers increased 450%, and likes for posts increased 385% compared to the pre-pandemic period.

Accessing information and sharing visual information using traditional methods have also maintained their importance alongside communicating with communities through social media channels and remaining accessible through the hotline. Therefore, UNHCR has produced COVID-19 posters, brochures, and booklets published in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and DGMM; printed materials have been distributed to Turkey’s 81 provinces. Printed materials showing precautions and instructions for refugees on how to access the buildings of the Provincial Directorates of Migration Management across the country have also been produced in cooperation with DGMM.

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