Turkey (MNN) — Greece says it has returned 12 Syrians, including a woman and her four children (none of whom applied for asylum in Greece), to Turkey. It’s part of the European Union-Turkey deal aiming to stop the flow of refugees and migrants across the Aegean Sea into Europe.
So far, the International Organization for Migration notes more than 181,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe this year via the Mediterranean Sea. By comparison, 22,408 migrants and refugees arrived in Europe by sea during the first four months of 2015.
Cash-strapped, and fearing terrorists disguised as refugees, several European countries refused admission. Some went as far as abandoning refugees at transit stations, or building walls to keep them out.
Last month, the European Union and Turkey struck a deal: people arriving illegally on Greek islands from Turkey are being returned, unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece. On paper, it looks okay. In practice, International Needs US President and CEO, Rody Rodeheaver says, “All of that is a process being worked out. There were agreements made, but I think the agreements now have to be taken down to their lowest common denominator, and they have to figure out how they’re really going to do this.”
Some European countries are providing Turkey with a financial incentive for their willingness to take some of these refugees. But again, theory and reality are two different things.
“You need to realize that Turkey is providing a holding area, (and) some provisions for food.” People aren’t getting enough food or medicine. International Needs Turkey is working to bring encouragement and relief to these refugee children and their families, explains Rodeheaver.
In their haste to leave the war-zones, many of the refugees fled with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Survival was more important than education, while there was a faint hope of returning home. Now that that’s been dashed, the reality sets in.
”These children do not speak Turkish”, says Rodeheaver. Not being able to communicate in their host country makes it “…almost impossible for them to get an education in Turkey unless there are special (measures) being taken.”
Connections with the right government officials helped pave the way for long-term services. For example, “In one of the camps where we’re working, we’ve been able to utilize some teachers who escaped; (we) worked with them, paid them for their services to teach the Syrian children so that they are not missing out on their education.”
International Needs Turkey’s other areas of service include:
- Evangelism and Spiritual Development
- Relief for Refugees
- Education Curriculum Development
- Youth Programs
Ministering to refugees is a Gospel outreach endeavor for International Needs, but meeting immediate needs builds a relationship of trust. Even little things, like a cuddly stuffed animal for those lonely times when tears come, matter.
When the International Needs teams showed they were around for the long haul, “The families were really open to talk about how we could help them in the future, but also they were open to us praying with them and sharing some hope with them.” One tool for sharing this message of hope is the newly published Action Bible. The beautiful drawings and simple text share the Gospel message in a kid-friendly way. International Needs is working to provide one of these special Bibles to every child who asks.
Rodeheaver says for those who want to send stuffed animals, shoes, jackets or other goods, they appreciate the thought, but money simply works better in this scenario.
“Huge containers sit at the docks, waiting for thousands of dollars’ worth of taxes to be paid for those containers to be released, so they can help the refugees,” he explains.
In an effort to avoid that trap, it’s better for churches to raise funds, for individuals to give funds to International Needs. “Then our people, on the ground, can buy the materials, the clothing, and the pharmaceuticals in-country.”
Pray for opportunities for Christians in Turkey to share the Truth of who Jesus is with those around them. Click here to come alongside International Needs Turkey.