Istanbul by night

Turkey Mastering the challenge of displacement together

On 6 February 2023 two earthquakes, registering 7.8 and 7.7. on the Richter scale, hit Turkey and Syria, causing untold damage. 60,000 people lost their lives, millions were left homeless. Massive damage was also done to the physical infrastructure. In Turkey alone, over 500,000 homes were destroyed. In Hatay, one of the twelve Turkish provinces affected, up to 80 per cent of the public infrastructure has been reduced to nothing. The worst affected provinces in Syria are those bordering Hatay: Afrin, Harim and Latakia. The World Bank and the United Nations have put the damage caused in Turkey at over 100 billion euros. In Syria, the United Nations has estimated that repairing the damage will cost over 15 billion euros.

The international community came together in an act of solidarity in response to the earthquakes. A total of over 11,000 emergency and rescue workers, mainly from Turkey, were involved in the response and large quantities of aid and technical supplies were delivered to Turkey and Syria. On 20 March 2023, the EU staged a donors' conference for the victims of the earthquakes, where around seven billion euros was pledged. Some 2.6 billion euros of that was in the form of grants for Turkey and Syria. The German government pledged 238 million euros (210 million euros of humanitarian aid from the Federal Foreign Office and 28 million from the BMZ's budget), one of the highest amounts out of all the bilateral donors at the conference.

The area struck by the earthquake had already been suffering a humanitarian crisis. Between around 4.7 million and 5 million Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons were living in the affected area (some 3 million in Syria and between 1.7 million and 2 million in Turkey). The BMZ had therefore already been strongly engaged in the region before it was hit by the earthquakes.

In Syria, for example, around nine million euros was made available in 2023 for projects stretching over a number of years, supporting the health sector in the north-west of the country, for example, or boosting agricultural production. When the earthquake struck, the BMZ then made available an additional 19.5 million euros for specific measures in response to the situation, some of which are planned to run for several years. This includes measures to restore the critical infrastructure necessary to secure the basic needs of the people in the affected area. The funding will be used, for example, to repair the damage done to hospitals, schools, water pipes and bakeries.

Funding of 24.7 million euros was provided to Turkey in 2023. Our measures are aimed mainly at improving access to education (schools, technical and vocational education and training, non-formal education) and also at job creation and social cohesion. Our main partners alongside the municipalities are international organisations (UNICEF, ILO), local non-governmental organisations and business associations. A sum of 13.5 million euros from previous commitments was also reallocated in response to the earthquakes. The money was used for food aid, emergency shelters, hygiene supplies and psychosocial counselling for victims, particularly women and girls.

There are plans to commit more funds in 2024 to continue efforts in Turkey (mainly in the area affected by the earthquakes) and north-west Syria and to build back what the countries need. The World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are also currently engaged in negotiations with Turkey on the provision of loans for the recovery process.

Turkey is an important link between Europe and Asia, as well as with the Islamic world. It is regarded as an emerging country, with an economy that has shown very dynamic performance over the past few years. Turkey also plays an important geopolitical role, since it borders on several regions that are prone to tensions, such as the Balkans, the Caucasus Region as well as the Near and Middle East.

Straight to
Garland with small flags of Turkey

Germany's development cooperation with Turkey began in 1958 and came to an end with a last commitment in 2008.

Currently, Germany helps Turkey cope with the refugees streaming into the country to escape the war in Syria.

However, there are no plans to resume a regular programme of bilateral development cooperation.

German activities Education and employment

Since 2015, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has provided around 801 million euros in total for structure-building activities to help support Syrian refugees and Turkish communities which have taken in refugees.

School education and vocational education

The BMZ focuses its interventions to support refugees and hosting communities on the areas of school education and vocational education and training, on employment promotion, and on strengthening social cohesion. For instance, efforts are being made to provide education so that there is no “lost generation” of Syrian refugee children – in other words, a generation of Syrian children who have known nothing but war and have so little education that they have virtually no prospect of a decent life. It is hoped that offering youngsters educational opportunities will also prevent them from becoming radicalised.

Violence prevention and social exchange are crosscutting issues of the BMZ’s activities. The fact that both the refugees and Turkish host communities benefit from the interventions helps to strengthen the exchange between the groups and prevent ill will.

Vocational education and training and measures to build professional skills serve as a launchpad into working life and a life that is independent of external support. Since mid-2016, opportunities for employment in the short and the long term are being created as part of the Partnership for Prospects so as to ensure that families can provide for themselves and have a viable option to stay in their home country. One of the BMZ's most important partners in implementing these activities is the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF.

Jobs campaign

The employment promotion programmes supported by Germany are directed not only at refugees but also at locals who are finding it difficult to find a job because of the inflow of refugees. For instance, under “cash-for-work” programmes people can earn a quick income by taking on basic tasks in their communities such as helping with repairs, waste disposal or the maintenance of public buildings and green spaces.

Other employment promotion programmes help to fund wages or salaries, in particular for additional teaching staff. Employment promotion measures helped to create helped to create more than 100,00 jobs since the start of the programme in 2016 and education has been provided for almost 350,000 children.

Activities involving the EU

In addition to the German government's bilateral activities in Turkey, Germany is also involved in the European activities being carried out under the action plan agreed by the EU and Turkey in November 2015 and under the EU-Turkey statement issued in March 2016. The measures are being coordinated closely in order to avoid duplicate structures and to ensure added value.

The Federal Republic of Germany is contributing to the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey as well as other measures, and is a member of the group coordinating the measures agreed between the European Union and Turkey.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is also active in Turkey.

Teacher and students in the UNICEF school in Adana

Education programme promoting school enrolment and leisure activities Internal link

More than half of the Syrian refugees in Turkey are children and young people. Some 40 per cent of these youngsters have no opportunity to attend regular school classes. This means they are deprived of the opportunity to return to a normal daily routine and develop new hope for the future.

Street scene in Öncüpinar at the Turkish-Syrian border

Community centres to improve social cohesion Internal link

The majority of Syrian refugees in Turkey live outside the official camps, mostly in towns and villages in the south-east of the country. Local and international non-governmental organisations have set up community centres there offering educational activities as well as advisory and support services to the refugees.

Current situation

Garland with small flags of Turkey

Presidential powers greatly increased Internal link

In order to prepare for the desired accession to the European Union, the Turkish government began in 2002 to introduce numerous reform steps with regard to the rule of law and the respect for human rights. However, under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's presidency these reform-oriented policies have stalled.

Syrian refugees in a camp in Nizip, Turkey

Turkey takes in millions of refugees Internal link

The crisis in Syria has been influencing Turkey's domestic and foreign policies for some time now. A number of terrorist attacks and violent incidents along the country's borders are evidence that the conflict is having a direct impact on Turkey's security.

As at: 11/08/2021