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April 30, 2009

Pro Bono Legal Service Helps Keep a Family Together

April 2009 

With the support of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), legal aid clinics continue to improve people’s lives. Had it not been for the legal aid clinic in Lebap, Tangriov Halbay’s family would have been separated, with its members on either side of the Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border. His wife, originally from Uzbekistan, has lived in Turkmenistan for 10 years. Her repeated attempts to secure Turkmen citizenship were unsuccessful. Turkmen immigration services were about to deport his wife and children, who were denied citizenship as a result of their mother’s unresolved citizenship issues, when Halbay consulted the legal aid clinic.

Because of the complicated bureaucracy in handling immigration issues in Turkmenistan, people seeking citizenship and proper documentation are often frustrated by small mistakes in paperwork, which often lead to long waits, miscommunication and system errors. For many would-be citizens, the problem is intensified by the pervasive lack of access to legal representation throughout the process.

The U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Turkmenistan Community Empowerment Program (TCEP) supports the operation of pro bono legal clinics across the country and assists those who would otherwise not have access to legal services. The ABA ROLI supports the clinics by conducting public legal education seminars, providing referrals to local legal resources and training lawyers and community leaders on economic and civil rights.

Roza Klycheva, a pro bono attorney in the Lebap legal clinic, volunteered to assist Halbay and his family. She studied the immigration law and contacted the ministries of foreign affairs and justice on the family’s behalf. When she realizeded that an incorrect state tax payment was keeping the applications from being processed, she helped the family file corrective documents. The legal assistance enabled Halbay’s wife and children to receive their citizenship documents, which made the family’s fear of separation history.

The TCEP program fosters citizen and community empowerment through awareness-raising and institutional capacity-building efforts. The program’s legal aid clinics, on the other hand, provide individuals with free legal advice and service to solve their problems and to address community needs, with the combined effect promoting a rule of law culture.

To learn more about our work in Turkmenistan, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <[email protected]>.