Turkey is host to 2.7 million refugees and seeks $6.7 billion in additional humanitarian assistance from the European Union. Helping the refugees is a moral imperative, but Turkey is unlikely to receive the funding needed until it makes transparency a priority, including refugee registration information.
The needs of those in refugee camps are not difficult to determine. But there are an estimated 2.5 million non-camp refugees inside Turkey whose conditions are unknown. The Turkish government has not conducted large-scale surveys of non-camp refugees, and international organizations report that they cannot get permission to conduct surveys themselves. Only one government survey of refugees–conducted in 2013–has ever been made public. It found that 97 percent of Syrian women in Turkey could not find work and that 78 percent did not have enough money for food.
The situation is dire for refugees in the region. In Lebanon and Jordan, child labor and child marriage rates are skyrocketing. To feed their families, parents are forced to send their children to work.
It is time to rise above politics, lay out the facts and work together to address refugees’ problems–before they get worse. The humanitarians gathering in Istanbul must reaffirm their commitment to humanity and speak out against systems of secrecy that hinder aid. Transparency, in all its forms, is essential to an effective humanitarian response.