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Syrian Refugees: Gaziantep’s Social Support Program

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Jul 07, 2016 / 0 Comments
A Syrian Refugee Woman and Her Daughter Outside Their Tent in Turkey (Photo Credit: EU Director General)

On 15 March 2011, Syria witnessed a movement of protests part of a larger Arab uprising. The scene soon turned into civil unrest. In consequence to intense civil war, a big migration wave, hit in 2011 neighboring countries, particularly Turkey continuously increasing till this date. The crisis in Syria is the biggest human tragedy since World War II.


Syria population consisted of 21 million people in 2011 when the civil war erupted and so far:

  • 330.000 people have been killed.
  • 1.7 million people have been injured.
  • 4.6 million people have left Syria.
  • 6.6 million people are internally displaced.

It is high time to talk about peace and Syrian people re-building their own country, because nothing can replace the sense of belonging to the homeland; the Syrian crisis is a global issue that affects us all. Every individual, every country and every organization should take on the responsibility for a better world. Hopefully sooner the peace, which we are missing the most in the region, will take place in Syria and spread across the world.




In April 2011, Turkey opened its doors to a group of 252 persons. Soon, hundreds of thousands of guests crossed the borders for safety.


The Turkish government policy on hosting Syrian refugees:

- Open door policy.

- Non-refoulement policy.

- Temporary protection


This policy is in line with international laws including the universal declaration of Human Rights and the 1951 Geneva Convention. Today more than 2.8 million Syrian refugees live in Turkey. Turkey hosts the largest refugee population in the world since 2014. So far, the Turkish government has allocated around 10 billion dollars for Syrian refugees and international organizations has spent 455 million dollars.


Health services are free of charge. Temporary education centers (Schools for Syrian children) allow 330.000 children attendance. A regulation on access to labor market has been issued and Syrian refugees can now work legally in Turkey. Access to universities for Syrian refugees has been facilitated. There are 25 modern camps for Syrian Refugees and 270.000 refugees live in.





Registered Syrians

The Rate in Provincial Population

Total Population












According to recent data issued during May 2016 by the general directorate of migration administration, the city of Gaziantep ranks 4th in hosting Syrians. 





Gaziantep is one of the cities most affected by this wave of migration to Turkey. The number of registered guests in Gaziantep is about 350,000 individuals, and a large portion of that number (approximately 300,000 individuals) is located in the city center. It is also estimated that these figures might be higher due to unregistered Syrian guests.


According to the statistics of Turkish Statistical Institute (TSI) in the scope of "population and average annual growth rate by province, the population of Gaziantep was 1,889,446 in 2012 and as 2023 projection it was estimated 2,257,278 individuals. However, at the end of 2015, real numbers showed that the population reached more than 2,300,000 a figure that surpasses the estimations for the year 2023. Today 17,25% of Gaziantep population consists of Syrian refugees.




Tent City

Tent City

Tent City

Tent City

Container City









Number of Syrians living in City Center

Number of Syrians Living in Shelters

Total Population








Number of Syrian refugees living outside the camps and in the camps in Gaziantep


The number of Syrians guests, in the range of 5-17 years old living in Gaziantep, is 92,890 of which 55,053 are children in primary and secondary education levels who have been brought to education and training. In this context, 59% of the target group has been sent to schools.


Before the civil war in Syria, the primary schooling rate was 85%; however, in turkey the schooling rate for 'primary school (from 1st grade to 5th grade)' is 90% but the rate decreases for upper grades and high school. In total (including high school) the schooling rate %59.


In Gaziantep, the education and training are provided in 51 schools. Turkish students in our schools have conformed to the dual education system instead of the normal education system. Normally students should start their school day at 08:30 am but the time has been changed to 07:00 am in order to provide education for Syrian students in the afternoon.  


Providing only social services is not enough for living together; water, sewage, sanitation, infrastructure,  waste management, environmental health, parks and green fields, transportation, pollution are as well crucial needs to be considered along the great rise in population. So far, Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality (GMM) spent 302 million dollars for projects benefitting refugees (between 2011 and early 2016).


A research shows that Syrian population constitutes about 20% of the whole Gaziantep population, and that criminal acts involving Syrian refugees are only of 0.1%, therefore Syrian refugees are not people whom we should be afraid of. 


Syrian refugees are more than numbers to us, they are human beings above all and therefore merit to be treated as such. GMM’s policy is therefore to treat them as equals to the local population and sometimes positive discrimination takes place.


Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality’s Social Services for Syrian Refugees


The social services policy of GMM is to pair humanitarian responses with development interventions. We plan for the short and long term, and we try to eliminate the socio- economic impacts of this global crisis.


This problem has extended beyond in the limits of an emergency response; its dimensions have changed and we are working on capacity building and development policies.


Directorate of Migration


We have created an organizational structure concerned with the Syrian issue: the directorate of migration, which is based on the health and social services department at the GMM, and has been established in order to provide appropriate, effective, demand-oriented social services for Syrian guests, as well as to ensure coordination among departments of municipality, to provide cooperation among international organizations, universities and civil society organizations and to produce and carry out need-oriented projects. This structure is also in charge of organizing monthly meetings with Syrian, Turkish and International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that help reduce the risks of social civil war and help a healthy need assessment process.


Syrian Information and Education Center


GMM has two Syrian information and education centers, consisting of schools for Syrian children, which were established in 2012, in order to eliminate the risk of a”lost generation”. The students are economically disadvantged and without support they do not have the chance to attend schools, therefore all their needs are covered by the municipality including transportation.


Ensar Community Center


This center offers services for Syrian women and children living outside the camps focusing on human rights in the scope of social cohesion and social inclusion. GMM has partnered with the ministry of family and social policy. This center offers information and counseling in several fields of which:

  • Law.
  • Health.
  • Employment.
  • Education.
  • Social services.
  • Sports and culture.


The center  also organizes informative meetings and is a bridge between refugees and social  resources.


Art and Vocational Training Center (Gasmek)


The law of access to labor market has been issued however most of the refugees lack qualification for a job therefore vocational trainings are provided to facilitate finding a job.


Turkish and English language courses are provided for social cohesion and there are several different courses for both the hosting and refugees communities.


Women Guest House


The women guest house hosts women in need or ones who survived violence with the company of their children until safety is ensured and GMM is running a project to fight child marriage in the region.


Health Services


The municipal hospital and medical centers provided health care to around 50,000 Syrian refugees free of charge, and now we are planning to establish a physical therapy center.


Social Research Center (SARMeR)


Preparing social risk map of Gaziantep, we analyze the current situation and make need assessment. SARMeR helps us to clarify our social service policy based on needs.

Although it’s a research center according to situation emergency interventions can take place.


Distributed Food - Clothing and other Aids


People who have urgent needs are supported by the municipality through humanitarian aid while preserving their human honor. Some of these donations are:

  • Food.
  • Clothes and shoes.
  • Blankets.
  • Book sets.
  • Toys for kids.
  • Carpets and sofas.
  • Kitchen kits.




Turkey’s approach diverges from the way in which hosting countries commonly respond to refugee situations—by directing refugees into camps supported by humanitarian agencies.


Experience shows that when refugees are supported in becoming socially and economically self-reliant, and given freedom of movement and protection, they are more likely to contribute economically to their host country.


This approach also creates challenges for both refugees and hosting communities, which includes socioeconomic pressures such as deficits in housing and service delivery, joblessness, and the potential for social tensions but yet it’s a better way for a healthy return policy.


We believe that the welfare of disadvantaged will rise the welfare of a whole society.


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