Know Your Work Rights: Info Sessions in Istanbul

Despite turbulent times for refugee policy in the United States, Refugee Solidarity Network and our partners remain committed to working with displaced populations in host countries in the Mediterranean region. This recent field report gives a brief look into what that work looks like in Turkey, where we support the Refugee Rights Center.

On January 28th, RSN’s primary partner Refugee Rights Turkey (RRT) offered one of its unique know-your-rights information sessions to a packed room of Syrian refugees in an Istanbul community center. The topic of the session focused on labor rights, work permits, and the steps for setting up a business or registering as a skilled artisan in Turkey.

The day’s presentation quickly turned into a dynamic discussion: RRT’s trainers answered questions from the crowd as they walked through the process for participating in the Turkish labor market. All the while, presenters made sure to highlight the workplace rights that refugees have in different scenarios. After giving presentations, lawyers opened up the last hour for an open Q&A with community members.

Toward the end of the session, attendees began to share questions about their particular employment goals, displaying the optimism of the refugee community. RRT staff used these questions as examples to help walk all participants through the many steps and considerations involved in entering the Turkish labor market. Beyond finding stable employment, some participants also wanted to discuss the possibilities for entrepreneurship as a Syrian refugee living in Turkey. RRT staff explained the steps for these possibilities, such as joining professional trade associations, or opening a small business. These types of questions show the kind of hope and potential already present in the communities we work with, and encourage us to offer program activities that facilitate long-term community development and integration.

RSN supports RRT to regularly offer these kinds of community trainings. RSN works in tandem to evaluate such sessions and use feedback from attendees to further develop activities of value to the refugee communities. Disseminating accurate information forms an important part of our legal services activities as well as playing a central role in empowering refugees.

The January session was held at the Istanbul Maharat Center, a livelihood center supported by International Medical Corps and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. RSN-RRT continue to work together with Maharat and partners in the field to deliver similar sessions. In February and the coming months, we will be delivering similar presentations for Syrian refugees in Urfa, Hatay, and other locations across Turkey.

As anti-refugee voices seem to gain strength, RSN remains committed to our approach of building capacity of local legal actors in key host countries while engaging in global advocacy and awareness-raising. There has never been a more important time to stand in solidarity with refugees.

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