Turkey’s geographical position makes it a first reception and transit country for many refugees and migrants. As the result of an unprecedented influx of people seeking refuge, the country currently hosts more than 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees and is making commendable efforts to provide them with humanitarian aid and support. The EU is committed to assist Turkey in dealing with this challenge.
As part of a wider programme of country visits to 11 EU countries and to Turkey, an EESC delegation undertook a three-day mission to Ankara and Izmir to meet authorities and civil society organisations active in the migration field from 9 to 11 March 2016. In the report from this fact-finding mission, a significant number of important issues have been raised about the country's role – as a gateway to the EU – in the refugee crisis.
The EU-Turkey Statement, which was issued on 18 March 2016, reconfirmed both parties' commitment to the implementation of the EU-Turkey joint action plan activated on 29 November 2015. The European Commission is issuing regular progress reports on its implementation.
In the light of Turkey's ever-expanding role as the EU's most important partner in tackling the current migrant crisis, there is a need for an in-depth examination of different aspects of protection which Turkey offers to refugees. With this own-initiative opinion, the EESC wishes to contribute to this examination from the point of view of civil society organisations (CSOs), by devoting particular attention to evaluating economic, social and humanitarian conditions of refugees in the country, by analysing in depth the role of Turkey in tackling the refugee crisis and by identifying new areas of cooperation.