Displacement is becoming increasingly complex as new factors intersect with traditional drivers. With growing conflicts, climate change, pandemics, energy and food crises, the number of forcibly displaced people globally surged to 103 million, 32.5 million of whom are refugees, in the first half of 2022, according to UNHCR’s Mid-Year Trends report released on 27 October 2022. The international armed conflict in Ukraine has driven the fastest and largest displacement witnessed in decades. One in every 77 people on earth now being forcibly displaced represents a horrific reality.
The impact of the pandemic on opportunities for durable solutions has greatly diminished. Refugees’ voluntary returns and resettlement increased in the first six months of 2022 compared to the same period in the previous year. Nevertheless, given the sheer volume of new displacements worldwide, these solutions remain available to very few people.
Countries neighbouring Syria, including Türkiye, have hosted Syrians for over a decade as the conflict in Syria is entering its 13th year. In 2021, Afghans in Türkiye were increasingly approaching authorities for international protection as the situation in Afghanistan evolved. These crises, and many more, including countless protracted situations, are not only fading from media attention but are being hindered by the lack of strong determination by the international community to prevent and durably end conflicts.
In early 2022, the Ukrainian conflict prompted the arrival of Ukrainians in Türkiye. Since 2014, Türkiye has been home to the largest refugee population in the world, with some 4 million refugees and asylum-seekers, 3.6 million of whom are Syrians under temporary protection. There are around 50,000 Syrians (around 1.3%) hosted in seven temporary accommodation centres operated by the Presidency of Migration Management in the south of Türkiye, while over 98.6% live across the country in 81 provinces. Around 3,000 Ukrainians are hosted in a temporary accommodation centre in Türkiye’s Elazığ province.
The Turkish State leads the refugee response in Türkiye, based on a comprehensive legal framework, particularly the Law on Foreigners and International Protection (2013) and the Temporary Protection Regulation (2014). The United Nations in Türkiye assists the coordination of humanitarian and development partners under the umbrella of the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP), which is co-led by UNHCR and UNDP, and the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF). UNHCR complements the state’s efforts by advocating for the rights of all those in need of protection through a whole-of-society approach in line with the Global Compact on Refugees.
In Türkiye, as efforts to increasingly include refugees in services provided through the national system continue, in line with the principle of harmonization put forward by both the law and the National Strategy on Harmonization and a National Action Plan adopted in February 2018, UNHCR continues to engage in a comprehensive response in support of refugees, their inclusion in national systems, access to solutions, and fostering of social cohesion through programmes that benefit refugees, the host community members, national institutions and local administrations. Throughout 2022, UNHCR implemented its activities, strengthening access to protection services by working closely with state institutions including border authorities as well as lawyers and bar associations, and increasingly engaged with municipalities and universities.
Since 2020, there has been an impressive response by Türkiye in combatting the health and other impacts of the pandemic, including giving free access to refugees and migrants to the vaccine. However, the residual impacts of COVID-19 are still challenging, particularly for vulnerable groups and individuals, putting them amongst the hardest hit and slowest to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. The latest inter-agency protection needs assessment conducted between 9 August – 19 September 2022 shows the generally adverse effects of these dynamics on the lives of refugees, with up to 80% of them reporting a negative change to their working status throughout the pandemic while 90% of households cannot fully cover monthly expenses and basic needs.
Against the significant progress made in Türkiye, global challenges that could not have been foreseen have put many refugees at serious risk, undermining some of the hard-won achievements. It is more important than ever to continue supporting Türkiye in implementing its inclusive legal framework. Providing protection to refugees is and should be a collective global responsibility in line with the Global Compact on Refugees. It is a collective job to ensure that those who have made the hard choice of leaving everything behind and fleeing are protected, helped, and empowered.