Solidarity and Action: IOM Director General Appeals for “Long Haul” Support on Visit to Earthquake Zone

IOM’s Director General António Vitorino and Regional Director for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Manfred Profazi, meet IOM Türkiye’s team at the warehouse in Gaziantep. Photo: Ever Mohammed/IOM 2023 

IOM’s warehouse team in Gaziantep demonstrates to IOM’s Director General António Vitorino a non-food item kit shipped to affected populations Northwest Syria. Photo: Ever Mohammed/IOM 2023

Hatay – The international community must strengthen its efforts to ensure aid keeps reaching the millions of people who have been affected by the devastating earthquakes that hit Türkiye and Syria last month, according to the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) while in the affected areas.  

“In the ruins of historic Antakya city today, I met proud and brave people whose past has been eradicated, whose present is full of suffering and whose future is uncertain,” said António Vitorino, after his two-day visit to the Türkiye, which included meetings with Vice President Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.“I am in awe of IOM colleagues and our many partners who began responding within hours of the earthquake, despite being affected themselves. But now comes the long haul; standing in solidarity and action with Türkiye as it rebuilds and creates a new future for the millions whose lives have been torn apart,” added Mr Vitorino. 

“These people are humanitarian heroes. We will never forget their sacrifices, and one of the reasons I am here is to pay tribute and condolences to them, and particularly to the families of the three IOM staff who perished. Our teams overcame complex coordination and logistical issues, as well as personal tragedies, to get aid rapidly to affected communities in Türkiye and Northwest Syria.”  

Three days after the disaster, IOM was one of the first UN agencies to restart cross-border assistance, noted Mr Vitorino, visiting a logistics hub close to the border, which has been vital to the response as a transit point for thousands of tons of aid being brought into Northwest Syria. So far in the response, IOM has dispatched over 150 aid trucks across the border. 

Mr Vitorino also met with Türkiye's Presidency of Migration Management at a Government-run temporary accommodation centre that provides shelter to persons affected by the disaster, including the local community, migrants and Syrians under temporary protection. In a discussion with the Director General, Nawfal Melish, a Syrian national now living at the centre remarked: 

“We used to live in Hatay where we had everything, but now we’ve lost it all. I worked in a shop, but that was destroyed by the earthquake, just like my house, but now we will start a new life. We are finding this displacement more difficult than the first one when we had to leave Syria because of the war.” 

On Friday, in the capital Ankara, Mr Vitorino met with the head of the Coordination Center of the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency Yunus Sezer, a Government agency leading the response to the earthquake. 

“I was highly impressed with the Türkish Government’s emergency response in the face of an unimaginable calamity, and I am ever more proud of the strong relationship IOM has had with this country since our local office was first opened over 30 years ago. We continue to provide our operational capacity and experience to the Government to support them in moving forward on the road to recovery,” he commented.   

While in Ankara the Director General also held a briefing with Ambassadors representing the international community where the latest information on the earthquakes’ impacts were detailed, along with IOM’s response and capacity to reach even more people in need, should appropriate funding be secured. 

IOM’s appeal for USD 161 million to support response efforts in Türkiye and northwest Syria is currently less than 30 per cent funded. As urgent funds are needed, IOM will continue to advocate and call the international community to back its vital response which has already included the dispatching of more than 1 million emergency aid items in Türkiye in just over one month. 

Download video footage and photos from the Director General’s visit to Hatay here.



For more information, please contact: 

In Türkiye:
Olivia Headon,  

In Vienna:
Joe Lowry,  

In Geneva:
Juliana Quintero,  
Lanna Walsh,