EU – Turkey Civil Society Dialogue on strengthening protection and reception services for refugees, building integration & promoting independence through volunteering
Istanbul, 4-6 April 2016 – Human Resource Development Foundation (HRDF) and ICMC Europe, hosted the first EU-Turkey civil society dialogue conference and working visit in Istanbul on April 4-6. The aim was to discuss challenges, opportunities and approaches to refugee protection and delivery of social and integration services, and, in particular, to promote the use of volunteers to expand services to refugees.
The conference marked the commencement of the project “Refugee Protection and Service Delivery Dialogue – Strengthening Partnerships to Respond to Syrian Refugee Needs” (referred to as the Refugee Service Dialogue Project) led by ICMC Europe and Human Resource Development Foundation (HRDF) as part of the Civil Society Dialogue programme. The project is a follow up of the ICMC Europe SHARE project, strengthening partnerships between cities and civil society in refugee integration in Europe.
A host of European experts were invited to present in Istanbul on volunteering and service provision to refugees, including, Caritas Biella (Italy), Coventry Refugee & Migrant Centre (UK), Danish Refugee Council (DK), Dutch Council for Refugees (NL), Portuguese Refugee Council (CPR) and The County of Yorkshire (UK). Turkish participants included, civil society and university representatives based in Istanbul as well as participants from HRDF and the Red Crescent in Eskisehir and Van, where other dialogue meetings will be organised as part of the project.
Sabir Zazai (Coventry Refugee & Migrant Centre) on Twitter 5 April
Istanbul is currently hosting approximately half a million Syrian and other refugees, lacking assistance and support. Partner HRDF introduced their work in the areas of psycho-social support, legal counselling and advocacy for refugees, asylum-seekers and vulnerable groups in seven Turkish cities, namely Istanbul, Ankara, Bilecik, Kütahya, Eskişehir, Agrı and Van. The meeting programme featured a site visit to the Syrian Refugee Services Center in the Istanbul Esenler district, where HRDF provides assistance and psycho-social support to vulnerable Syrian refugees (of which many are women with small children) and introduced participants to their work on legal advice and referral at site. The Refugee Service Dialogue Project will pilot a volunteering programme in the Esenler centre to expand services for refugees by working with universities to inform students about volunteering opportunities and raising awareness of refugee protection needs. (For more on HRDF work with Syrian refugees, click here to access the full presentation).
To enhance full understanding of the current refugee context, Elif Selen Ay from the UNHCR office in Istanbul presented recent figures on numbers of arrivals (as of March 2016, the number of Syrian nationals in Turkey is 2.724.946 (according to the Turkish government) of which 273.882 live in camps), explained the legal frameworks for both Syrians under temporary protection status and other refugees and outlined the role of UNHCR in Turkey. (Click here to access the full presentation). A representative from the Istanbul Provincial Migration Department (DGMM- Istanbul Governorate) provided additional information on the recent changes in the Turkish legislation with regard to legal status, work permits and placement of Syrians residing in Turkey - developed as a response to increased numbers of arrivals.
Representatives from European and Turkish NGOs, regional and city authorities and universities presented their work on coordinating and supporting volunteers in the field of refugee reception, social services, legal advice and refugee integration. European expert organisations explained the different ways in which European volunteer programmes are managed and coordinated and how volunteers are trained in areas like social guidance, language learning, accessing education and health and employment. The meeting ended with a practical session in which Turkish civil society participants developed strategies to engage volunteers at their respective organisations, looking at how to engage other local actors to address specific needs.
For more information on the Refugee Service Delivery project contact Project coordinator Magdalena Boehm (ICMC Europe) at firstname.lastname@example.org.