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The Republic of Turkey

Fact Box

At present, Turkey has the largest refugee population in the world. Over 3.6 million of these refugees are from Syria. Approximately half of the refugees live near the Syrian border and the Turkish capital, Istanbul. Only 4% of Syrians live in refugee camps. One of the biggest environmental challenges has been the additional generation of waste. Waste volumes have increased by 21.5% in Southeast Turkey since the arrival of refugees. Another big problem is the lack of potable water in this region, which is among the driest in the country.

Government type: Parliamentary republic

Capital: Ankara

Population: 81 257 239 (July 2018 est.)

Land area: 783 562 sq km  

GDP (real growth rate): 7.4 % (2017)

Population below poverty line: 21.9 % (2015)

Ethnic groups: Turkish 70–75%, Kurdish 19%, other minorities 7–12% (2016 est.)

Religion: Muslim 99.8% (mostly Sunni), other 0.2% (mostly Christians and Jews)

Population distribution: urban population: 75.1% of total population (2018)

Refugees. 96% in urban areas, 4% in refugee camps (2019)

Refugees: (country of origin): 3 651 635 (Syria), 170 000 (Afghanistan), 142 000 (Iraq), 39 000 (Iran), 5 700 (Somalia) (2019). Total 4 008 335, circa 5% of total population

IDPs (internally displaced person): 1 113 million (displaced from 1984–2005 because of fighting between the Kurdish PKK and Turkish military: most IDPs are Kurds from eastern and southeastern provinces; no information available on persons displaced by development projects (2017)


CIA: The World Factbook


Biggest Challenges of Turkey

Turkey, a country of 80 million people, has had the largest refugee population in the world since 2014. Turkey hosts over 3.6 million Syrian refugees, or ‘Syrians under temporary protection’ (according to the Turkish government, Syrians in Turkey are officially ‘Syrians under temporary protection’ as they don’t have the legal status of refugees) and over 400 000 refugees with other nationalities (5% of the population).

The Temporary Protection Regulation provides Syrians in Turkey with access to education, health care and the labour market. 96% of refugees lives in urban, peri-urban and rural areas, whilst only 4% of Syrians live in refugee camps (or officially ‘Temporary Accommodation Centers’) in provinces along the Syrian border. Approximately half of the refugees in Turkey are registered in four key provinces: Gaziantep, Hatay, and Sanliurfa, which are located at South East, near Syrian border, and the capital of Turkey, Istanbul. Most of the refugees are young, as approximately 1 million refugees in Turkey are aged between 15 and 24. Divided by gender, 60% are male. Since the start of the crisis, the Turkish Government has invested over 37 billion USD to address the impact of the crisis.

One of the biggest environmental challenges has been the additional generation of waste, which in turn has led to additional health and environmental risks. Municipal infrastructure and service delivery continues to be strained due to the significant increase in demand, including solid waste and waste water management as well as fire-fighting services. Waste volumes have increased by 21.5 per cent since the arrival of Syrians in the south east of Turkey (in Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis and Sanliurfa provinces) costing USD 25 million per year for collection and transportation of waste. In 2017, three new waste transfer stations were opened. Illegal ‘wild’ dumping of waste means a huge risk for environment and especially the water resources. In addition, visible waste in communities means additional risks related to social cohesion and negative perceptions of refugees.


The south east region of Turkey is among the driest areas of the country, having the lowest precipitation levels in the country. Due to this, for example the Sanliurfa’s ground water level is dropping every year due to changing precipitation and misuse of groundwater for irrigation purposes. This situation is causing ground water storage decrease.

In Kilis, the number of Syrian refugees outnumbers the amount of host community (130 000 / 131 000) increasing the need of water. Kilis has a huge potable water problem. It’s very dry area. The main problem at the moment is the water distribution and pipes. There is a 40 percent leakage of water from the water distribution network.

Air and noise pollution is a rising challenge in the south eastern cities. For example in Gaziantep, a city of 2.2 million people, is currently hosting 350 000 Syrian refugees. Heating up houses with coal, or even plastic, has negatively affected the air quality. Also, an increase in the number of cars has led to impaired air quality as well as noise pollution.


-UNHCR Turkey factsheets:

-UNHCR 3RP Regional Refugee Resilience Plan 2018–2019

-UNHCR 3RP Regional Refugee Resilience Plan 2017–2018: 2017 Progress Report

-UNDP workshop in Gaziantep (11.2019)

-Interviews: Sertac Turhal, Project Manager under the Syria Crisis and Resilience Response Program of UNDP Turkey, Gökhan Yaman, the Environmental Engineer of the Gaziantep Municipality.