Syrian refugees buy goods in a Turkish refugee camp supermarket
The controversial scheme, under which Syrians who fled their war-ravaged homeland are given about £21 a month, forms the central plank of a £2.5billion aid package from European states that was thrashed out with Turkey at the height of the migrant crisis last March.
Humanitarian aid programmes are still be carried out despite rows between Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and EU chiefs over delayed visa-free travel for Turks and Ankara’s human rights record since a failed military coup last summer.
Syrian refugees are now gettng pre-loaded debit cards
With cash payments, you are actually giving refugees back the way they used to live their lives
The cash card programme, known as the Emergency Social Safety Net, has reached just under 600 families but that figure is due to rise to 20,000 by the end of the month and the target is 200,000 families — equivalent to one million people – by June.
Organisers say distributing pre-loaded debit cards rather than food parcels supports the local economy and empowers the refugees.
Jonathan Campbell of the World Food Programme said: “In countries like Turkey where the market is strong, with a well-integrated economy, it doesn’t make sense for us to be distorting the market.
“With cash payments, you are actually giving refugees back the way they used to live their lives. You are giving back a sense of normality and dignity.”
A supermarket for Syrian refugees in a Turkish camp
EU leaders also hope that by improving life for refugees in Turkey they will be less inclined to head for Europe.
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But there are fears among some refuge families, Turkish officials and analysts about the scheme’s long-term sustainability.
Funds will run out by the end of the year although organisers say there is scope for it to be extended.
Syrian refugee children whose home is a camp in Turkey
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Thu, June 16, 2016
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Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State
EU officials also say the scheme is only a part of part of the £2.5bn set aside for humanitarian and development projects.
Analysts believe the cost for EU countries is tiny compared with the bills they would face if they had been forced to accept more refugees themselves.
Germany, which took in more than 1.1 million refugees last year, as part of Angela Merkel’s open door policy has budgeted a staggering £66.3bn to support and integrate them over the next three years.