(Ankara) November 19, 2012 – Refugees from Afghanistan are facing a harsh winter in Turkey this year. Jesuit Refugee Service has learned more than 8,900 Afghans have arrived in the country since May 31, mainly arriving in through Iran. It is believed that most are fleeing the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, but some may have been residing in Iran for some time.
Less than six months ago, approximately 7,000 Afghans were registered as refugees in Turkey with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). In less than six months, this number has more than doubled. The fact that they arrive with little or no resources puts them in extremely vulnerable circumstances.
"During the summer, some lived in tents, but have since been relocated to a number of different cities throughout the country. Upon relocation, they are expected to support themselves: finding a place to live, paying their rent, and meeting all other expenses. Refugees are scattered among 51 cities throughout Turkey and must register with police at least once a week. Going to another city requires official permission," said a JRS staff member in Turkey.
There are currently 700 refugees residing in the central Turkish city of Kirikkale, 600 of whom arrived in the past two months. Other major places of relocation include Tokat (1,800 refugees), Malatya (1,200 refugees), and Sivas (800 refugees). JRS estimates 98 percent of these refugees will choose to stay in Turkey rather than attempt a difficult or dangerous journey to another European country.
"These are the people who have nothing, no resources to pay for rent. They lack everything. Some families live practically on the ground, with winter quickly approaching," JRS staff said.
Currently these refugees are not receiving government or UN assistance. Their situation is quite dire, and will worsen as winter sets in. There is an urgent need for beds, blankets, food and fuel for both heating and cooking. JRS has also been receiving requests for medical assistance from the refugees, as they are not eligible for public medical care.
Jesuit Refugee Service has worked in Turkey since 2011 in agreement with the local non-governmental organization — KADER - Chaldean Assyrian Humanitarian Organisation. Straddling continents, Turkey is both a destination and major crossroads for refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia awaiting resettlement or hoping to reach Europe. JRS teams in Turkey provide material assistance and food coupons to 110 refugees in Ankara and Kirikkale in central Turkey.
Due to emergency, 25 families received six food coupons worth about $100 each, while the food coupons given to 10 single refugees were worth $50 each. All the refugees are provided with warm clothing, advice and support and the opportunity to attend Turkish language courses. So far, JRS has been responding by raising funds locally in Turkey, but these funds are pretty well exhausted.by Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA