2019 Global Citizenship Review
Person walking

Employment matters

A project in Turkey helps refugees navigate their employment opportunities

The 4.2 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, as well as those from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Somalia, need help in their quest for jobs and the creation of stable living environments.

Our work for refugees is incredibly meaningful because it gives us the opportunity to work directly with the members of our community most in need.

Derin Altan, association partner, GKC Partners

We have been working with Refugee Rights Turkey and Refugee Solidarity Network as part of a pilot program to explore how private lawyers can help fill a capacity gap not covered by state-funded legal aid and NGO legal services. In this case, a team of lawyers in Turkey is offering education and counseling on labor procedures, rights and entitlements. 

What started out as a legal review of access-to-labor information was soon extended. A group of three lawyers, led by association partner Derin Altan of GKC Partners in Istanbul, with whom we work on Turkish legal matters, is participating in information seminars and group and individual counseling sessions with refugees delivered in Arabic, Turkish and English.

The know-your-rights sessions include information on the criteria for qualifying for a work permit, exemptions, step-by-step advice on applying for work, workers’ rights and job seeker status and training, as well as guidance on starting a business. While the onus is officially on employers to apply for work permits, it is often left up to the employee to navigate the difficult and lengthy process themselves.

Seminars began in September 2019 with 40 to 50 attendees at each session. Participants are usually community leaders, leading to further onward communication to a wider group of people. The plan is to continue on this basis, holding three meetings a month, for as long as needed.

“This was one of the pro bono projects that we valued a lot, and this is reflected in our work. The personal nature of the one-to-one contact with people who need help increased the desire of the rest of the office to help,” said Derin.  “Our work for refugees is incredibly meaningful because it gives us the opportunity to work directly with the members of our community most in need.”

Derin and his colleagues see this project as a fundamental part of an ongoing pro bono program in the Istanbul office centered around refugee rights, supporting the LGBT community and gender equality matters.

Image: // Turkey border crossing. 
© John Stanmeyer / NatGeo


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