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Migration phenomenon is one of the important outcomes of political and ethnic conflicts, environmental catastrophes and income inequality in the Third World. After the 1980s, Turkey has become a destination country for migratory movements. Among the new migrants are those who approach Turkey as a transit country to reach Western countries; asylum seekers; those who come to settle; those who come to work and lastly victims of trafficking.

HRDF is the first NGO that started providing legal counseling (since 2001) and psychological counseling (since 2002) to asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey. Psychological counseling services have been expanded to Istanbul and Ankara in 2003 and social counseling services have been added to the current program in 2007. Social workers, psychologists and translators at HRDF Istanbul and Ankara Refugee Offices are providing services to asylum seekers/refugees. The program is being implemented in collaboration with UNHCR.

Refugees in Turkey reside in pre-determined satellite cities during their waiting period until a durable solution is found. Most of them are deprived of any social support in these cities. Local administrations and institutions lack necessary knowledge about refugees; they are unaware of the needs of refugees in their cities. Following a needs-assessment survey, HRDF’s social workers started to provide social support to asylum seekers and refugees who reside in 3 satellite cities, Eskişehir, Bilecik and Kütahya in 2007 along with initial provinces. This program has been expanded to two new cities, Van and Ağrı in 2010.

The objective of this program is to mitigate the vulnerability of this group and strengthen social support. Social workers inform and refer members of the target group to access health, education and other services; they also work to raise the awareness of local administrators and institutions about refugee rights and provide advocacy activities.

HRDF refugee offices have established regular contacts with local authorities and local NGOs in order to find other resources to meet the needs of asylum seekers and refugees in 7 cities. Through these relations, social solidarity foundations, state hospitals, municipalities, governorships, NGOs and philanthropists have started to be aware of the needs and started to provide assistance to cover financial needs, health related expenses as well as accommodation, clothing, nutrition and hygienic material needs.

HRDF also implements capacity building activities for human rights and advocacy NGOs to enhance their refugee protection. HRDF acts as a key actor to provide both protection and support to the target group. Increasing knowledge of NGOs, social and health service providers and the public in general has strengthened protection for refugees. After HRDF’s efforts, appropriate support has started to be provided to refugees by the authorities in those satellite cities. An increased awareness of international standards and human rights of the general public has improved social inclusion of refugees in the society.

Within the framework of this Program, refugees have found a trustworthy and secure atmosphere to talk and share their problems, feelings and concerns. They now have reliable, realistic and responsible source of information about asylum procedure in Turkey. Through positive feedback and advocacy activities, HRDF staff also support them in coping with problems they face in this transition process.