Ahead of crucial meeting in Ankara: EU announces electronic cash cards for refugees in Turkey

The European Commission announced today the launch of a new humanitarian programme using monthly cash-transfers to electronic cards that will be given to the most vulnerable refugee families in Turkey to cover their daily needs.

The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is financed with €348 million by the EU and its Member States under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. It will be rolled out by United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in partnership with the Turkish Red Cresent and Turkish ministries.

Turkey is currently host to over 3 million refugees. More than ninety percent of them are living outside refugee camps. As of October 2016, monthly cash-transfers to electronic cards will be given to the most vulnerable refugees across Turkey. The aid is expected to reach one million refugees countrywide by the first quarter of 2017.

The cash card is considered as an efficient way to support families to purchase what they most need, providing them the dignity of choice. Refugees will be enabled to feed and house their families and to send their children to school. As the money will be spent in local markets, the new system will also boost the local economy.

At a press conference today (8 September), the Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said that “the unprecedented scale of the ESSN will make a significant difference in the lives of men, women and children who have had to flee conflict and violence.”

He described the use of cash cards as a cost-effective game changer in the delivery of international humanitarian aid and expected that it would be received positively at tomorrow’s High Level Political Dialogue meeting in Ankara between EU and Turkey.

“The aid is part of our commitments under the EU-Turkey migration agreement but we would have provided it regardless of any political aspects since it’s a moral obligation,” he said.

The ESSN is part of the €3 billion made available by the EU and its Member States under the “Facility for Refugees in Turkey” in 2016-2017 to provide assistance to refugees and host communities in Turkey.

The total amount contracted until now for humanitarian and non-humanitarian actions under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey amounts to €652 million. Out of this, €181 million has been disbursed to date.

Asked by The Brussels Times about the size of the monthly cash transfer, the Commissioner declined to specify any figures but assured that it had been calculated to cover a minimum budget and would take into account special family needs and any social assistance already received from the Turkish authorities.

A similar aid delivery method with electronic cards is apparently not foreseen for the millions of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, according to Commissioner Stylianides.

The Brussels Times

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