EU envoy Berger says the Union’s refugee aid enters new phase in Turkey

The European Union has allocated the first half of its €6 billion agreement for Turkey to take in Syrian refugees. Ambassador Christian Berger, head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, told Deutsche Welle (DW) on Wednesday that the EU-Turkey deal was addressing long-term challenges posed by the Syrian crisis, while also noting that, just last week, the European Commission contracted the last of the initial €3 billion package of humanitarian funds under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.

Despite the discussions of the EU-Turkey deal may be marked by provocations and tough talk from politicians on both sides of the Aegean Sea, the DW reported that nearly two years on, the agreement’s main objectives are being overwhelming realized, according to European officials in Ankara.

Introduced in March 2016, at the height of the European refugee crisis, the agreement aims to stop irregular migration from Turkey to Europe while improving the living conditions of refugees within Turkish borders. Since its passing, arrivals and deaths resulting from human trafficking to Greece have plummeted, and the first phase of €6 billion ($7,12 billion) in EU humanitarian funding has kick-started a wide range of programs addressing the most pressing needs of refugees in Turkey – over 3,2 million of whom are Syrian.

However, the report underlined the fact that many gaps remain in the accord, both when it comes to border security and integration measures. The majority of refugees continue working in exploitative industries and more than a third of Syrian children do not attend school. The agreement has also been a point of tension in recent spats between EU countries and Turkey.

Yet in an interview with DW, Ambassador Christian Berger, head of the EU Delegation to Turkey, said the EU-Turkey deal was addressing long-term challenges posed by the Syrian crisis, while also noting that, just last week, the European Commission contracted the last of the initial €3 billion package of humanitarian funds under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey.

Now EU deputies and their Turkish counterparts have begun preliminary discussions on how to allocate the second €3 billion funding package, Berger said. In the coming months, both sides will assess EU-funded programs in Turkey – which have wide-ranging aims in improving access to education, housing, health care and the labor market for refugees – and officials are trying to discern the major problem areas that persist.

Considering the Syrian conflict has become a protracted crisis after seven years of war, Berger said humanitarian aid work is currently focusing on the transition from an emergency response to developing integration programs to address future prospects for Syrians in Turkey – many of whom may not return to their country for years to come.

“There is this statistic by UNHCR that says, it takes about 15 years for a person to either leave, go back where they came from, decide to settle permanently in the country where they are or move on to a third country,” Berger told DW. “So, we are only half way [into the Syrian refugee crisis] … many people have not made up their minds on what they’re going to do.”

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