The situation in the earthquake zones: What is the status quo?
Six months after the earthquake disaster, hundreds of thousands of people continue to live in emergency shelters, including tents and containers. Food and medical care are scarce in many regions. The supply of clean water continues to pose a major challenge, and many destroyed water pipes and sewage systems still need to be repaired. Children and young people in particular are struggling to cope with the impacts of the earthquakes and have been traumatised by their catastrophic experiences. Many schools have been closed for months, and a normal everyday life is a distant prospect for these people.
Support for people in Syria and Turkey
The Federal Government has pledged almost 240 million euro in assistance for the people in Turkey and Syria this year, thus putting Germany among the top three donor countries for the many people in need. The support provided includes covering the costs for the search and rescue teams that were deployed immediately after the disaster, for humanitarian assistance, including the distribution of urgently needed food, drinking water and medicine, and for longer-term targeted support for the people in need. We want to use the money to enable those affected to live in dignity and security. Together with UN WOMEN, we are focusing on the special needs of women and girls. Crises have different impacts on women and men. In times of crisis, existing gender inequalities are often exacerbated. For example, women and girls need special protection when there is a lack of privacy and security in communal spaces.
Aid for the people in Syria – a particular challenge
Particularly in north-western Syria, where the humanitarian situation was already extremely tense and where many internally displaced Syrians live, a very large number of people were killed and injured. As one of the largest supporters of the people in the region, Germany made humanitarian assistance available already prior to the earthquakes and has a robust network of partner organisations on the ground. Thanks to this network, we were able to get assistance up and running quickly after the earthquakes and have already contributed 135 million euro this year. As the second-largest donor country, Germany is also helping to cover the costs of UN aid supplies that are flowing from Turkey into north-western Syria via three border crossings. It is particularly important that aid supplies continue to reach those most in need in north-western Syria reliably and without interference on the part of the regime in Damascus. We are also providing assistance to the healthcare sector and lending our support, for example, to the care of cancer patients who could temporarily no longer be treated in Turkey as they had been prior to the earthquake.
Simplified visa procedure for those affected
In addition to humanitarian assistance, the Federal Foreign Office, together with the Federal Ministry of the Interior, had already set up a simplified visa procedure for those affected shortly after the devastating earthquakes. Under this procedure, it was possible for them to be invited to Germany by close family members for a temporary stay as part of a simplified and pragmatic procedure. The visa procedure for long-term stays was also simplified. For example, appointments for family reunification were increased in number at the Istanbul and Beirut visa offices while applicants from the regions affected by the earthquakes were given priority in the appointment booking process. This applied in particular to family reunification with Syrian nationals eligible for subsidiary protection. Furthermore, in many cases the legally required proof of simple knowledge of the German language was waived for subsequent immigration of spouses of Syrian applicants.
Our visa offices in the region were thus able to issue a total of over 16,900 visas. More than 12,300 of these were Schengen visas, and more than 4000 visas for permanent residence were issued within the framework of family reunification. As the demand for such visas continued to decline, this simplified procedure was discontinued on 6 August.