‘EU-Turkey Civil Society Dialogue on Volunteering for Refugee Protection: Strengthening refugee assistance services in Turkey’
Ankara, 9 May 2017 – Human Resource Development Foundation (HRDF) and ICMC Europe hosted a final conference of the EU-Turkey Civil Society Dialogue project “Refugee Protection and Service Delivery Dialogue –Strengthening Partnerships to Respond to Syrian Refugee Needs”. With the objective to shed light on the development of a national action plan for harmonization and the current state of volunteering in refugee service provision in Turkey, by means of further defining terminologies (across all actors national, local authorities and civil society) and recommendations on how to successfully engage volunteers in services for beneficiaries of international protection with the aim of increasing capacities and expertise on the subject among European and Turkish stakeholders.
The conference was organized as part of a project entitled “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 HRDF as part of the Civil Society Dialogue programme. The project is a follow up of the ICMC Europe SHARE project, designed to strengthen partnerships between European cities and civil society with regard to refugee integration in Europe.
Among the 50 participants, a delegation of European NGO experts were invited to present their respective volunteering programmes and to provide targeted recommendations aimed to professionalize volunteering for refugees at Turkish civil society organisations. The delegation consisted of Student Action for Refugees (UK), Caritas Biella (Italy), Dutch Council for Refugees (NL) and Cooperation for Volunteering Service Bulgaria. Turkish participants included representatives from the Directorate General of Migration Management; the Ministry of Family and Social Policies of the district municipalities of Altındag, Mamak and Keçiören; the municipality of Cankaya, the Provincial Health Directorate, NGOs, university, UNHCR and IOM.
Within the panel ‘Towards a national harmonization strategy & the role of local actors’, IOM provided an overview of the development of Turkey’s integration policies. A tendency change toward the political and societal acceptance of Turkey as a migrant and refugee receiving host country was documented with the introduction of a Law on Foreigners and International Protection in 2013. The large and mostly Syrian refugee community will be staying in Turkey considerably longer if not their entire lives. The situation calls for a comprehensive long-term strategy which encompasses a variety of aspects such as social, legal, political integration, as well as access to the basic services of healthcare, education and housing. IOM stressed that this strategy will require attention and contributions from various actors, particularly local and central instructions as well as civil society.
The researcher Sema Akboga (Istanbul Medipol University) shed light on the obstacles to volunteering that are present in Turkish society: levels of volunteering are lower than those of most other countries in the region – a phenomenon that is largely rooted in historical factor and the relationship with the state. But she also stressed the fact that true levels of citizen engagement might be higher than documented as there is little empirical evidence of informal forms of volunteering in Turkey. In spite of certain challenges, there is also a strong cultural and religious tradition of charity and an engaged youth inclined towards volunteering. Given increased reform and professionalization of the volunteering culture in Turkey, there is good potential to develop volunteerism as a pathway for supporting refugee service-provision and longer-term efforts to facilitate mutual harmonization.
Partner HRDF introduced its work and provided an overview of project outcomes with regard to the volunteer pilot programme launched at the Syrian Refugee Services Center in the Istanbul Esenler district in February 2016. The centre provides assistance and psycho-social support to vulnerable Syrian refugees (many of whom are women with small children) and organizes cultural activities, legal advice and referral services for their beneficiaries. The Refugee Service Dialogue Project developed an organisational strategy to engage volunteers in service provision and is currently working on an online volunteer training tool to support volunteer coordination at refugee supporting NGOs in Turkey to ultimately relieve the pressure on service provision and expand the service landscape offered to refugees residing in Turkey.
For more information on the Refugee Service Delivery project contact Project manager Magdalena Boehm (ICMC Europe) at firstname.lastname@example.org.