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Turkish Lawyers Trained to Provide Legal Aid and Counseling to Syrian Refugees

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April 2015

In January, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) trained more than 50 Turkish lawyers from across the country to provide legal aid and counseling to Syrian refugees.

Led by Dr. Leyla Welkin, an ABA ROLI expert who specializes in cross-cultural psychotherapy, the training covered special techniques and sensitivities in counseling and interviewing vulnerable clients who have escaped violent conflict, including those who have been injured or lost family members and property. The sessions addressed approaches that can help to avoid re-traumatization when working with victims of trauma, sexual and gender-based violence or torture.

Many of the estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey—a majority of whom live outside established refugee camps—are in urgent need of legal services. More than four years into the war in Syria and with the return to their country seeming ever more remote, the refugees’ initial concerns of finding short-term safety and protection have grown to include thoughts of long-term survival and familial security. Yet, many of them don’t take advantage of services that the law affords, such as healthcare and education, because they lack information or encounter cultural and language barriers. Others are denied critical services because providers are misinformed about the refugees’ rights.

Supported by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, ABA ROLI implements a program that assists Syrian refugees in exercising their rights under the Turkish legal system. Participants in the January training are members of an ABA ROLI-established network of Turkish lawyers who deliver legal awareness sessions and individual legal consultations to urban Syrian populations throughout Turkey.

Trainees said that the workshop helped to increase their understanding of the long-term effects of trauma and its impact on lawyer-client relationship. The training highlighted legal situations that Syrian refugees face frequently and discussed best ways to address them. A trainee said, “We are now able to develop empathy with Syrians.”

ABA ROLI will pair training participants with local community centers where the lawyers will conduct legal awareness sessions and provide counseling services to Syrians refugees.

To learn more about our work with Syrian Refugees in Turkey, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

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