‘Refugee Rights Turkey’ is an independent NGO based in Istanbul, which provides specialized legal information & assistance services to asylum seekers and persons in immigration detention in Turkey;  delivers trainings, reference resources and other expertise support services to lawyers on refugee law, Turkish migration & asylum procedures;  undertakes advocacy for improvements in Turkey’s migration & asylum legislation and policies, in line with international standards; and engages public opinion to promote solidarity & positive attitudes towards refugees and other vulnerable migrants.


Refugee Rights Turkey constitutes the latest organizational evolution for the continuation of the well-recognized refugee legal aid, asylum advocacy and capacity-building activities previously known as “Istanbul Refugee Legal Aid Program” (IRLAP) from 2003 to 2004; “Refugee Legal Aid Program” (RLAP) from 2004 to 2005; “Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Refugee Legal Aid Program” (HCA-RLAP) from 2005 to 2008; and “Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Refugee Advocacy and Support Program” (HCA-RASP)  from 2008 to 2015. As of March 2015, all HCA-RASP operations and activities were rebranded and transitioned into the new “Refugee Rights Turkey” framework and continue since then under this new name.

Refugee Rights Turkey is registered and certified as an association under Turkish law, incorporated on September 16th, 2014, by the legal name of “Mülteci Hakları Derneği”.  For all public branding and communication purposes, the organization adopts the “Mülteci Hakları Merkezi” name in Turkish and “Refugee Rights Turkey” name in English.


As per the Statute of the organization, Refugee Rights Turkey works to: “empower 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; promote the improvement of Turkey’s legislation, policies and practices pertaining to asylum in line with international standards, rule of law principles and good practices; strengthen public ownership and sensitivity towards addressing the protection needs of refugees, asylum seekers and other categories of vulnerable migrants; and contribute to the proliferation and strengthening of information and assistance services available to these groups in Turkey”.

Areas of Work

Refugee Rights Turkey activities are organized in terms of 3 inter-related programmatic components:

1-Legal information and Assistance Services

2-Policy and Legislation Advocacy

3-Expertise Support & Capacity-building


1-Legal Information and Assistance Services

Direct Legal Assistance Services

Refugee Rights Turkey relies on a dedicated staff team of lawyers, legal advisors, protection officers and interpreters to extend a range of specialized legal information and assistance service to asylum seekers in Turkey, both Syrian asylum seekers covered by Turkey’s ‘temporary protection regime’ and asylum seekers from other countries of origin processed in the framework of Turkey’s ‘international protection procedure’. Services for asylum seekers range from individualized and group-based counselling on procedures, rights and obligations to litigation and other legal representation measures vis-a-vis the Turkish Migration Directorate (Directorate General of Migration Management), competent domestic courts and the ECtHR. Refugee Rights Turkey legal aid services seek to empower beneficiaries to access rights and protection mechanisms provided under Turkey’s domestic legislation and effectively utilize remedies against negative asylum status decisions and other unfavorable administrative measures.

Refugee Rights Turkey also extends legal counselling and assistance services to asylum seekers held in immigration detention facilities with a view to ensuring access to asylum procedures and preventing unlawful returns to unsafe countries of origin or transit, and holds information sessions for groups and communities at risk of immigration detention.

Refugee Rights Turkey also maintains a dedicated program to offer legal assistance and counselling services to unaccompanied minor asylum seekers accomodated in state shelters in Istanbul area.

Legal Information Materials

Refugee Rights Turkey generates and disseminates a range of legal information materials for asylum seekers as well as lawyers and NGO practitioners to offer comprehensive yet accessible guidance on the Turkish asylum system and procedures and rights and obligations of the persons concerned. The current accumulation of Refugee Rights Turkey legal information products include booklets and videos organized by topic covering rights, procedures and obligations applicable to both refugees from Syria and asylum seekers from other countries of origin as well as persons subject to return and immigration detention procedures in Turkey. All of our legal information products are made available in principal relevant refugee and migrant languages as well as Turkish and English.

All of our legal information products can be accessed electronically im multiple languages via our dedicated legal information website http://multecihaklari.info  “Information Portal for Refugees in Turkey”, which was launched in 2019, as well as the Publications section of our website. Print copies of our information booklets are also regularly made available to NGOs and bar associations for wide dissemination across Turkey.

2-Policy and Legislation Advocacy

Refugee Rights Turkey seeks to promote and encourage improvements in Turkey’s domestic legislation and policy in the field of migration and asylum with an emphasis on rights-based approaches to refugee protection challenges in line with rule of law principles and relevant international and European standards. Refugee Rights Turkey also aims to strengthen public ownership and solidarity for refugees in Turkish society at large.

Refugee Rights Turkey monitors legislation, policy and practices affecting the protection of refugees and other vulnerable migrants in Turkey with a view to exerting independent civic oversight and channeling evidence-based, constructive and protection-sensitive legal and policy perspectives to national policy-making in this sphere.

In order to contribute to the strengthening of the national refugee protection space in Turkey, RRT organizes workshops and seminars on selected migration and asylum policy matters to promote rights-based policy thinking among Turkey’s legal professional community and other non-governmental stakeholders, with a particular emphasis on relevant international and European standards and drawing from relevant experiences and expertise in other countries. RRT publishes reports and opinion papers on selected gaps and issues articulating recommendations to key stakeholders for improvements. RRT also seeks to directly engage with key offial stakeholders and decision makers with a view to contributing to Turkey’s ongoing efforts to modernize and strengthen national policies and capacilities.

3-Expertise-support & Capacity-building

For many years, Refugee Rights Turkey has been serving as a leading non-governmetal capacity-building actor in Turkey vis-a-vis the legal professional community, bar associations and NGO practitioners, in regards refugee law and Turkish asylum legislation and procedures. RRT organizes trainings and specialization seminars for lawyers and NGO legal practitioners in different parts of the country, often in collaboration with provincial bar associations. RRT training events aim to strengthen familiarity and competence among legal practitioners in Turkey on asylum and migration law and procedures, but also to channel experience and expertise accumulated in RRT’s own legal assistance and litigation efforts to the wider protection community.

With a view to contributing to strengthening the overall supply and quality of legal assistance and representation available to refugees and migrants in Turkey, RRT strategically engages bar associations and policy makers to promote and support the mobilization of Turkey’s state-funded Legal Aid Scheme (Adli Yardım)  for free-of-charge legal representation services to asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. RRT also works to promote pro bono partnerships between law firms and NGO service providers to generate a supplementary additional supply of legal services for the refugee and migrant communities in Turkey.

RRT also generates and publishes legal reference and learning resources for lawyers, most prominently in recent years the periodically updated “Refugee Law Handbook for Lawyers” and “Migration and Asylum Law Training Modules”, which make available a range of relevant international standards, domestic legislation, sample decisions and documents, and case law. In 2020, RRT has launched http://multecihukuku.net (“Online Refugee Law Information Platform”) - a dedicated website for Turkish lawyers and NGO legal practitioners, presenting a comprehensive range of legal reference resources aiming to support learning as well as case-specific consultation.

RRT also runs a dedicated “Helpdesk for Lawyers”, which offer case-specific advice and support to lawyers and NGO legal practitioners handling migration and asylum cases and disseminates a “Refugee Law Bulletin” aiming to inform practitioners on key legislation and case law developments.

International & European Cooperation

As an independent national refugee rights advocacy NGO, Refugee Rights Turkey frequently engages with a range of key international and regional intergovernmental stakeholders, including UNHCR, IOM and other UN agencies, various Council of Europe (CoE) bodies including the CoE Human Rights Commissioner, the CoE Special Representative on Migration and Refugees and CPT, and various European Union agencies, including the EU Turkey Delegation and ECHO, as well as key governments actively involved in migration and humanitarian policy whether on global or regional level or in cooperation processes with Government of Turkey.

Through these interactions RRT seeks to enhance awareness and understanding among the international and regional stakeholder community on the refugee protection environment and challenges in the Turkey context and advocates for enhanced solidarity with Turkey and other host states in the region and protection-sensitive international and regional cooperation on migration based on full respect for state obligations under international human rights law and international refugee law.

RRT also actively participates in various regional and global joint advocacy platforms and umbrella organizations, bringing together non-governmental migrant and refugee rights and advocacy actors, including European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), European Network of Asylum Lawyers (ELENA), International Detention Coalition (IDC), Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network (SRLAN) and European Network on Statelessness (ENS) – among others. 

By way of involvement in these non-governmental platforms but also through bilateral, sometimes project-based cooperation processes with NGO counterparts from other countries in Turkey’s region, RRT seeks to both contribute to regional and global rights advocacy efforts from a Turkey vantage point and to channel expertise and experience from other national contexts to refugee protection and asylum policy conversation among Turkish rights advocates.