Turkey (MNN) — Following the deal struck between the European Union and Turkey, Greece began deporting refugees and migrants to Turkey on April 4, 2016.
The idea was to help alleviate the pressure building on Greece, as the ‘gateway’ country to Europe. At that time, notes the UNHCR, Syrian refugees in Turkey were at around 3.5 million.
International Needs USA President and CEO Rody Rodeheaver says it remains a fluid issue. “The refugee problem is an enormous problem from the perspective of numbers, and also from a perspective of the disintegration of life, because of all of the hurt, the destruction, (and) the chaos that many of these people have had to live through, and escape from.”
The majority of refugees live in urban areas, including cities without refugee camps, such as Istanbul, Izmir and Bursa. ”We are working in camps both in Istanbul as well as all across the country, some of them in the East.”
Plus, in an area close to Antioch, he says, they hit upon a new idea. First, the context: “There is a camp there that is made up of several hundred families that have escaped from Syria. Many children.”
Although somewhat protected, refugees and migrants face particular challenges regarding basic rights and livelihood support in Turkey. Unregistered refugees and irregular migrants are not entitled to access any public services in Turkey except emergency health services provided by public hospitals. That also means that “Children who are part of the refugee contingent cannot go to school because they do not speak Turkish.”
Rodeheaver says they also discovered Arabic-speaking Syrian teachers among the refugee population. “We have hired these teachers (who are part of the refugee community there) to teach the children.” International Needs provided a makeshift school. “We bring in supplies and these teachers are continuing to educate the children there.”
Thousands of children live in this “between” world in Turkey. Faced with the reality of not being able to return home in the next few years, “What we’re doing is saving children from living for years and years with no education and being very susceptible to indoctrination into some of the causes like ISIS that are radical.”
The International Needs team in Turkey is working to bring encouragement and relief to these refugee children and their families. A tent. A warm blanket. A jacket for cold days. Food. Shoes for growing feet. A cuddly stuffed animal for those lonely times when tears come. But now, says Rodeheaver, the reality is that these millions are stranded in a new land.
“That’s the reason I was just in Turkey: to lay long-term plans where our staff will continue to develop relationships and next-step scenarios with people that we know that, probably for ten years or more, are going to be locked in this situation.”
Ministering to refugees is a Gospel Outreach endeavor for International Needs. First, these people are hurting and need comfort. Meeting those immediate needs builds a relationship of trust, he says. ”The Gospel in one hand, and compassion in the other. There is more and more of a receptivity on the part of the people in the camp to us, as people. Relationships are being built.”
“I can’t tell you how many times our staff has heard, ‘it has been the Christians who have come to our aid. We are so grateful.’” That is what the Gospel is all about, explains Rodeheaver.
International Needs’ goal is to develop the evangelical churches who exist in those areas and “…work alongside of them to provide ongoing programs that not just handle the tertiary kinds of needs, but also would develop the kinds of relationships with these people that we can help with in situations, long-term.”
Please pray for the refugee children in Turkey who can’t go home again. The Lord knows each heart. May this be an opportunity for His comfort and hope for each young life.