How many Syrian refugees?

   The European Union promised to pay 3 billion euros to Turkey to help the government defray the cost of hosting large numbers of refugees, mostly from Syria. But how many Syrians are there in Turkey? How much did the government spend on them?

   At the start of 2015, the official number was 1.6 million. During the year, some 850,000 refugees, most of them Syrians, left Turkey for Greece and Bulgaria, according to the International Organization for Migration. Since only relatively small numbers of Syrians officially entered Turkey in the course of the year, the total remaining in Turkey should be substantially below 1.6 million. Instead, the official figure is now 2.2 million. What happened?

   Eda Bekçi, head of the İzmir-based Association for Solidarity with Refugees,  believes a significant portion of those who went to Greece may be Syrians who were never registered in Turkey. “There are many Syrians who come to Turkey only to pass to Greece within a week.”

   If the official figure of 2.2 million refugees is correct, then more than 1 million Syrian refugees must have entered Turkey this year, given that roughly 500,000 should be subtracted from last year's 1,650,000, says the Turkish newspaper Sunday's Zaman.

   The actual number of Syrians in Turkey may be much higher than the officially announced figure, which represents those Syrians who have been registered by the Turkish authorities, and many others are known to have entered Turkey in the early years of the civil war without any official registration.

   Murat Gezici, the head of the Gezici Research Company, believes the official figures reflecting the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey are not reliable. “It is revealing that the governors in provinces (bordering Syria) such as Hatay and Adana don't answer questions about the population of the Syrian refugees in their provinces,” Gezici told Sunday's Zaman.

   Gezici estimates, based on his polling company's research, the number of the Syrian refugees currently in Turkey to be between 3 and 3.5 million. Gezici estimated back in March that the figure was around 2,850,000, a number much higher than the official figure of nearly 2 million Syrians at that time.

    Fuat Oktay of the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate said a year ago that Turkey spent $5 billion on Syrian refugees. He added that the figure included money spent on the humanitarian aid sent by Turkey's Red Crescent to Syria.

   In April this year, Cevdet Yılmaz, minister of development, said Turkey spent $5.6 billion on Syrian refugees. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in June that Turkey had spent more than $6 billion on Syrian refugees. That indicates a rise, in roughly two months, of around half a million dollars, or maybe slightly higher, while the number of Syrians hosted in camps reportedly remained about the same during this period.

   In November however, Erdoğan sharply increased the estimated figure for those who are hosted in camps, to $8.5 billion. Then in December, Erdoğan said in remarks to Al Jazeera that Turkey spent as much as $9 billion on Syrians.

See the Sunday's Zaman article here

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