IOM Turkey Calls for Greater Assistance for Migrants and Refugees as COVID-19 Restrictions Ease

Food and hygiene kits donated by IOM Turkey are distributed to seasonal workers in Akdeniz district in Mersin Province. Photo: IOM

Ankara - Turkey has the 10th highest number of COVID-19 cases globally, but strict measures implemented by the government have allowed it to flatten the curve, with new cases down to under 1,000 per day.  

As lock-down restrictions ease in the world’s largest refugee-hosting country, hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants continue face elevated levels of risk. Many are trying to return to work but can’t afford basic personal protective equipment (PPE) or pay for medical services should they fall ill. 

Given this reality, further support to ensure greater protection of migrants is urgently needed.  

“The COVID-19 epidemic hit migrant and refugee communities in the larger cities such as Istanbul, Izmir and Gaziantep particularly hard,” explaiend IOM Turkey’s Emergency Coordinator Mazen Aboulhosn. “Hundreds of thousands of migrants were among the first to lose their jobs, causing an immediate financial burden for them and their families. Many are still not able to afford food, medicine and healthcare.  

IOM has monitored the situation of thousands of migrant families across ten provinces since the onset of the pandemic. Field assessments reveal the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on migrants in the health, socio-economic and protection spheres. The areas of greatest need identified include cash support, psychosocial counseling, basic health and hygiene services and supplies, and education support for children. 

IOM is expanding its programme of cash assistance to reach more than 10,000 vulnerable migrant and refugee families. Yara, a Syrian refugee and mother of two living in Gaziantep was among the first to benefit from the assistance.  

“The support IOM gave me enabled me to pay my rent so I wouldn’t be evicted. I also bought food for my children. It pains me when my children look at what the other children eat and I cannot afford to buy them the same thing,” Yara told IOM.  

Yara’s story is featured on IOM Turkey’s new “Birlikteyiz” podcast. Listen here

IOM also purchased life-saving HIV medications for several migrants who ran dangerously short of medicine, normally received from abroad, and is providing online counseling services both by phone and online for these and other at-risk groups.  

In partnership with Provincial Departments of Migration Management across the country, IOM has provided PPE and other necessities to migrant and Turkish host communities. Teams in the field continue to work around the clock providing humanitarian assistance to migrants rescued at sea and those in need along the land border with Greece. 

“These efforts have helped alleviate the suffering many migrant families are enduring during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Lado Gvilava, IOM Turkey’s Chief of Mission. “However, no one is safe until everyone is safe. The pandemic and its knock-on effects will continue to hit the most vulnerable the hardest, especially women, children, and elderly migrants. Their needs remain high and humanitarian agencies must continue to be supported by the international community in order to continue sustaining lives of the most vulnerable and help them build back stronger than before.” 

Listen to our podcast and watch our COVID funding appeal video to learn more. 

For more information please contact Lanna Walsh, IOM Turkey, Email: