At events at the Atlantic Council and Georgetown University, Dr. Fuat Oktay, President of the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), called for a more robust international response to the Syrian refugee crisis. The events were co-hosted by the Turkish Heritage Organization, and attendees included state department officials, academics, and young professionals.
In his remarks to the organizations, Dr. Oktay noted that Turkey is often lauded for refugee camps, which many hail as a model for cleanliness and efficiency. However, little attention is paid to many non-camp refugees within Turkey and who are straining Turkey’s resources, notably its healthcare infrastructure and educational system. To date, the Turkish government has spent more than $5.5 billion to support the more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who now call Turkey home. Importantly, Turkey provides not just clothing and shelter for the refugees but also free healthcare to all Syrian refugees.
Turkey needs the support of the international community to build capacity in the healthcare and education systems, Oktay stressed. This is the highest priority and a need that isn’t immediately visible when only looking at what’s happening in the refugee camps.
“Turkey is doing much to support Syrian refugees, but cannot continue to do so alone,” said Halil Danismaz, President of the Turkish Heritage Organization. “Additional support and coordination with Turkey’s allies, including the U.S., is required in order to make this humanitarian effort sustainable. This week’s discussions were a good step toward increasing cooperation and commitment.”
According to the UNHCR, Turkey is now the biggest refugee-hosting country in the world.