Refugee Rights Turkey is an independent NGO based in Istanbul that provides legal information and assistance services to asylum seekers; organizes trainings for lawyers and generates reference materials to strengthen the availability of quality legal information and representation for persons in need of international protection; works to nurture public ownership and positive attitudes towards asylum seekers; and advocates for improvements in Turkey’s asylum legislation and policies in line with international standards.
Registered as an association under Turkish law in September 2014, Refugee Rights Turkey constitutes the new organizational framework for the continuation of the well-recognized refugee legal aid, asylum advocacy and capacity-building activities carried out by Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Turkey – Refugee Advocacy and Support Program (HCA-RASP) since 2005.
As of March 1st, 2015, all HCA-RASP operations and activities have been formally rebranded and transitioned into the new Refugee Rights Turkey framework and shall continue under this new name.
2005-2015: From HCA-RASP to Refugee Rights Turkey
Since 2005, Istanbul-based Turkish human rights organization Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (HCA) had maintained a dedicated “Refugee Advocacy and Support Program” (HCA-RASP), which provided extensive legal assistance and representation services to asylum seekers; generated various reference materials and organized numerous trainings and seminars for lawyers and NGO representatives; published reports and recommendations about protection gaps; and advocated for improvements in Turkey’s legislative framework and policies pertaining to asylum and management of irregular migration.
While achieving a high level of recognition and credibility over the past 10 years among refugee communities, national and international counterparts and stakeholders, HCA-RASP did not maintain a separate legal identity of its own but operated as a sub-component of Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (HCA).
In light of the vast surge in refugee arrivals in Turkey in recent years and the dramatically elevated need for the kind of specialized legal assistance, monitoring, advocacy and capacity-building interventions which had been delivered by HCA-RASP as an independent national NGO actor, a strategic decision was made by HCA-RASP Leadership and HCA Board in 2014 for the transition of HCA-RASP operations and activities into a separate and dedicated new organizational framework going forward.
For this purpose, in September 2014 Refugee Rights Turkey was registered as an association under Turkish law by the legal name of “Mülteci Hakları Derneği” to serve as the vehicle for the continuation and further expansion of HCA-RASP activities and operations in response to the current potection challenges in Turkey and the wider region.
As such, Refugee Rights Turkey constitutes the new organizational framework for the continuation of HCA-RASP, which since 2005 has built a strong reputation as an independent, NGO legal assistance provider and credible rights-based asylum advocacy and capacity-building actor in the field of asylum in Turkey.
Refugee Rights Turkey replaces HCA-RASP as of March 2015
As of March 1st, 2015, core HCA-RASP activities and operations in the field of legal assistance and capacity-building programs targeting lawyers have been formally taken over by Refugee Rights Turkey. The gradual transition of a number of ongoing and remaining HCA-RASP activities into the new Refugee Rights Turkey framework will be completed by the end of 2015.
Refugee Rights Turkey inherits the core staff team, expertise and administrative capacities of HCA-RASP, is headquartered at the same Istanbul office premises that until March 2015 accomodated HCA-RASP activities, and will be accessible by the same telephone and fax lines. The organization shall be known by the “Mülteci Hakları Merkezi” name in Turkish and “Refugee Rights Turkey” name in English.
Refugee Rights Turkey is on track to take over all institutional affiliations engaged under our former HCA-RASP name, including membership affiliations with national, European and international network and alliance structures such as Turkey Refugee Rights Coordination, ECRE, Migreurop, SRLAN, IDC and the EMHRN MAWG among others.
Legal Status of Refugee Rights Turkey under Turkish Law
Refugee Rights Turkey is duly registered and certified as an Istanbul-based association under Turkish law as of September 16th, 2014, by the legal name of ‘Mülteci Hakları Derneği’. In the way of underlining the institutional as well as organic continuity from HCA-RASP to Refugee Rights Turkey, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly has served among the co-founders of our new ‘Mülteci Hakları Derneği’ organizational entity.
As per the Statute of the organization, ‘Mülteci Hakları Derneği’ was founded with the aims of:
“empowering refugees and other persons in need of international protection, other categories of vulnerable migrants and foreign nationals to claim their rights and entitlements and access protection mechanisms as per Turkey’s obligations under domestic and international law; promoting the improvement of Turkey’s legislation, policies and practices pertaining to asylum in line with international standards, rule of law principles and good practices; strengthening of public ownership and sensitivity towards addressing the protection needs of refugees, asylum seekers and other categories of vulnerable migrants; and contributing to the proliferation and and strengthening of information and assistance services available to these groups in Turkey”.