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Permanent Guests: Ways of Helping Refugees

Who is a “refugee”

Geneva Convention (1952), which is the founding agreement of the United Nations, defines the term refugee as a person “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”. They are out of their homes, and they cannot go back because if they do so, they will be in trouble.

How many refugees are there in the world?

Today, we face with the greatest wave of immigration since the Second World War.

  • According to UNHCR 2016 data, 65.6 million people in the world have been forcibly displaced.
  • About 22.5 million of them are refugees. 17.2 million of the refugees are registered by the UNHCR and 5.2 million are under the protection of the Agency for Relief to UNRWA, the United Nations Palestinian Refugees.
  • Half of the refugee population is under 18 years of age.
  • Of the people who are displaced, 10 million are people who are defined as stateless, meaning that they do not have any identity from any sovereign state. These people have to live a life which lack of many basic rights like education, health, and work.
  • When we look at the average, 20 people are displaced every 1 minute.

Ways of Helping Refugees

Where do the refugees come from?

Most of the refugees come from the Middle East and North Africa regions. Today, most refugees come from Syria with 5.5 million. Afghanistan is the second country with the highest number of refugees with 2.5 million, and South Sudan with 1.4 million. These three countries make up 55% of the world’s refugee population.

Where are the refugees going?


Refugees generally seek refuge in those countries close to their country of origin. For this reason, Africa and the Middle East and North Africa regions with 30% are in the first two places. The third place is Europe with 17%, followed by North and South America with 16%, and finally the Asia Pacific with 11%.


Turkey hosts the greatest refugee population today. According to UNHCR data, at the end of June 2017, 2.9 million refugees lives in Turkey.

The ranking in other countries is as follows: 1.4 million in Pakistan, 1 million in Lebanon, 979 thousand 400 in Iran; 940 thousand 800 in Uganda and 791 thousand 600 in Ethiopia.

Ways of Helping Refugees

Refugees in Turkey

What are the Nationalities of the Refugees Living in Turkey?

According to 2017 data, at the end of November, the largest refugee population in Turkey are Syrians. It is followed by people coming from Iraq and Afghanistan. The remaining percentage is a small percentage of people from Iran, Somalia, and other countries.

Ways of Helping Refugees

What is the legal status of refugees in Turkey?

In Turkey, some differences in definitions can be confusing. But the answer is international law.

The above definition of the refugee is based on the 1951 Geneva Convention, which is the founding treaty of the UN. It was prepared in response to a massive wave of immigration after World War II. At that time, however, time and space restrictions were introduced. So, only the people who are from Europe and who are mobilized after World War II were considered as refugees.

Later, in 1967, time and space restrictions were lifted. Turkey, while lifting the time constraints, space constraints, the practice continues: in Turkey, refugee status is given only to people coming from European countries.

In this case, the refugees from the above-mentioned countries are in the status of “owner of international protection application”. Asylum seekers can benefit from health and education, as in Turkey, after living for six months can have permission to work and are able to maintain their international protection as part of life.

Syrians are in a different status called “temporary protection”.

Where do the Refugees Live in Turkey?

The densely populated cities of the refugees in Turkey are indicated in bold on the map. Border cities and major cities are recently most preferred. The camp system in Turkey is not comprehensive for, refugees are living in the city.

Ways of Helping Refugees

Non-Syrian refugees are directed to a certain place to live, according to their density in the cities. Syrian refugees have no such obligation as a result of the difference in legal status. Because of being the capital city, Ankara is a city preferred by the refugees. They have access to services such as education and health, and often travel to Ankara to handle bureaucratic matters.

Why do they come to Turkey?

This is the most difficult question to answer, the most complicated question. I think many people a have the following questions echoing in their minds:  Why they are in Turkey? Why do not they stay in their country? Why do not they go to another country?

I think that it is impossible and incorrect for me to answer this question. But I know a place where we can find answers:

Ways of Helping Refugees

The main purpose of writing this article is to share ways of helping refugees. The reason for this long and informative entry is that I believe it is important to get informed about the subject.

When approaching to the topic of helping to the refugees, it is also necessary to consider that the situation is as political as it is humanitarian. We know that we can not totally get away from our views, but if we recall that it is humanity at stake, and we can consider the refugees as human beings, not as arguments for or against the ruling party. We can stop blaming refugees about the things that going bad in our country and we can start helping them.

Current political climate in Turkey decreased the activities of the civil society organizations. Most of the time we prefer not to stand next to anyone rather than standing next to the wrong person. So it can not be an ordinary list of “activities that can be helped by active participation”… Fortunately, there are still some things that fall on us. Here are the ones that come to my mind;

  • We are living together now. Let’s accept it first. The change is scary for everyone, yes, but that is until we know each other … Focusing on a good life that we can create together is the most important thing.
  • The second step after you have determined your intention is to become conscious. Arrival reasons of refugees, the situation in Turkey, developments related to their legal status and rights can be the first things to follow. You can follow the statistics of UNHCR and you can raise awareness in your small universe.
  • One of the easiest ways of helping refugees is to make donations to institutions that work in this field! Non-governmental organizations, which continue their activities with donations, provide services to the refugees in areas where the official institutions are insufficient in the short term, and help the state to develop capacity in the long term. Especially after 2015, the number of institutions operating in this country has increased considerably. You can click to go to the sites.

UNHCR Turkey   –   Turkish Red Cressent –   Association of Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM)  –  AFAD – Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency   –   Danish Refugee Council      Concern Worldwide   – Support for Life

–  If you want to support your donations sporadically, you can donate for these NGOs at marathons. More information at

  • You can inform the people around you that are refugees about their rights and you may direct them to the above mentioned organizations
  • Finally, you can communicate with non-governmental organizations operating in your city and volunteer for them. Some of the NGOs operating in Ankara;
      • KAOS GL – Human Rights Association – ASAM -Turkey Human Rights Foundation

This article is available in Turkish. Click here to take a look!

This article was written at 15.12.17. There might be changes in the legal procedures and numbers.

Jeyan İdil Aslan
Berlin'de bir Angaralı >< Angara girl in Berlin world

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