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"The only difficulty here is the language"

In light of the changing environment in Turkey, with the Government of Turkey taking over an increasing role in the refugee response, Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe together with their implementing partner Support to Life (STL) launched last November the project “Enhancing access to effective services and protection for people of concern in Turkey”. The goal of this project is to further support refugees in accessing their rights and services across the country and thus support them in addressing protection needs such as education, health and work by better linking them to national services. The project is funded by the European Union.

In April I visited the STL field office in Adana, a town on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey about three hours away by car from the Syrian border. Adana is one of the six provinces where this project is implemented. The STL field workers there -all Arabic speakers either from Hatay region of Turkey or from Syria- provide assistance of two kinds: the first so-called “IPA” is a type of one shot of assistance that should be sufficient to solve the problem, for example, helping with registration for Temporary Protection or helping access medical services. The second type of assistance is case management, which is used when the case is more complex and requires a longer follow up and possibly a multidisciplinary solution. This may be applicable in cases of domestic violence, abuse, early marriage, child labour or disability. The field workers who are trained as social workers normally take care of the more complex case management cases. Additionally, informative and awareness raising sessions are organized.

At the time of my arrival in Adana, the field workers were immersed in a two week needs assessment. They had visited around 400 households and identified 127 urgent cases -meaning that they already had a waiting list to address for only those urgent cases-. With the results of the assessment they planned to have a better picture of the main issues that Syrians face in Adana and decide the topics for the awareness raising sessions. Based on their impressions before analysing the results, it is predicted they conduct sessions on: work permit for Syrians and right to education (with focus on child abuse).
STL field team had met Eyad’s family some weeks before my visit. They were warmly welcomed into the family’s home where they introduced themselves and explained them the scope of the new project. Upon leaving, they assured them that they could contact them if they needed help accessing basic services such as medical assistance and education for their children.

Eyad and his family had fled their home in Aleppo countryside in February, during the regime’s recapture of the city. “The bombing was unbearable. I saw death with my own eyes. I don’t want my children to witness this” -he explains. Now in Adana, Eyad, his wife Mona and their seven children rent an apartment on the ground floor. Like most Syrians who move to Adana, Eyad came in search of work opportunities.
“The number of Syrians in Adana is around 200.000 according to local authorities”-explains Utku Canikli, the acting Project Manager. “Syrians come to Adana in order to search for job opportunities and because it’s a relatively big city and not as expensive as Istanbul and Ankara. The main jobs Syrians find are seasonal and year-round agriculture, collecting cardboard and plastics or working in restaurants. Additionally, Adana faces a huge problem of child labour. Children are cheap labour and easy to manipulate. It’s very frequent to see kids working selling handkerchiefs at the traffic lights, working in factories or collecting garbage. Unfortunately, STL has found at least one case of child labour in most households they visited in their assessment.”

Eyad and the three eldest children work collecting cardboard which they sell by weight. The four members of the family earn 15 TL a day (aprox 3.8 EU). Some months they are unable to pay the rent. Their landlord is luckily understanding and waits until they gather enough money to pay. Despite the hardships he and his family face, Eyad confesses “There is nothing difficult here, except for the language”.

A few days after their visit, Ahmed, the youngest child in the family fell ill. As the one year old child only was preregistered but had not received his full temporary protection status, he could not receive medical assistance at the hospital. Therefore STL accompanied the family to hospital and asked the doctor to issue a report stating that the child was ill and needed medical treatment. After that, the field workers accompanied Ahmad’s family to the Directorate General of Migration where they handed in the report and asked them to give priority to Ahmad’s registration.

Ahmad’s family is one of the many refugee families in Turkey who struggle daily to access basic services, their most pressing needs being translation to break the language barrier, help with registration for temporary protection and access to health services. For instance, another family recently asked the STL field team for support because two weeks after the doctor had prescribed a certain medication their child’s health had not improved. The field workers accompanied them to the hospital and explained in detail the child’s symptoms. Thanks to the translation service provided, the doctor could diagnose the child correctly and he was referred to the cardiology unit where they initiated the right treatment for him. Additionally STL Hatay-Adana teams coordinate on a bi-weekly basis to organize the transport for patients from Hatay to Adana to access Oncology/Cardiology services, as Hatay province has none. Quoting Volkan Pirincci, the Area Coordinator of this project “There are services available, the challenge is accessing them”.

On the day I visited Ahmed’s family they received the temporary protection document from the authorities. Now Ahmad, fully under temporary protection, has the right to access basic services in Adana.

*Names have been changed in order to protect the portrayed family.

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