The European Union today launched a 348 million Euro ($391 million) aid project to help millions of refugees in Turkey, as part of a deal under which Ankara will curb the numbers trying to enter Europe, international news agency Reuters news reported.
"We have created a system that combines the Turkish Social Welfare System with a humanitarian response. With this, we can cover the needs of up to one (1) million of the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey," The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) said in an official statement.
The ESSN, designed to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable are addressed in a comprehensive manner, is part of the €3 billion made available by the EU and its member states under the “Facility for Refugees in Turkey” in 2016-2017 to provide assistance to refugees and host communities in Turkey, according to official sources.
It will give refugees pre-paid cards which will allow them to buy their food, and pay for housing, schooling or medical expenses in Turkey, according to Reuters.
"Today we launch the biggest and largest humanitarian project the EU has ever supported. It will provide a basic source of income for one million Syrian refugees," EU Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management commissioner Christos Stylianides said.
While President Tayyip Erdogan has accused the bloc of not following through on its financial pledges, the EU has claimed it is funding several humanitarian projects in Turkey.
Turkey, that is home to more than 3 million refugees, has criticised the EU for alleged delays in the disbursement of the funds and the fact that the money is not being sent to Turkey directly to spend on the refugees.
The government says the amount the state and Turkish civic society organisations have spent on the refugees since the start of the civil war in Syria has exceeded $25 billion.
Last year, more than a million migrants entered the EU after crossing from Turkey to Greece by boat, according to Reuters. Since Turkey agreed to prevent people from setting sail from its shores, the numbers taking that route have fallen dramatically.
Meanwhile, the aid project will be implemented by the World Food Programme and the Turkish Red Crescent, in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Policy and the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency.
"The ESSN is perfect proof of the EU's commitment to tackle the challenge posed by the refugee crisis. It's a clear example of the strong partnership of the EU and Turkey in finding together new, innovative ways to address one of the most important humanitarian challenges of our times," Stylianides said.