For Syrian refugees fleeing to Turkey, arrival in this new, unfamiliar country brings specific challenges: The only non-Arabic-speaking state in the region, Turkey’s language and legal system are unfamiliar to many Syrians—leaving them vulnerable to basic rights violations. Clear, accurate information about refugee entitlements is also hard to find. As a result, large numbers of Syrians struggle without basic support; children remain out of school, and families’ socio-economic security is put at risk.
Now, however, Souktel and the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI) are partnering to change this reality, launching a first-ever cell phone based legal information service for Syrian refugees. Through the service, Syrians will be able to send legal questions via SMS at any time, with text messages received and analyzed through a secure, Souktel-designed analytics platform. After being sorted, tagged by topic, and translated into Turkish, the requests are sent to Turkish lawyers–who offer real-time advice via secure SMS channel, with translation back into Arabic so the Syrians can easily understand the content.
To raise awareness about the service, Souktel and ABA-ROLI are also launching an SMS outreach campaign which promotes local legal awareness sessions and offers short tips on basic rights, such as: “Did you know that with registration, your children are entitled to free schooling? Text the service to learn more”. The service supports ABA-ROLI’s wider efforts to strengthen the protection of Syrian refugees in Turkey’s urban areas—and ensure that they have the ability to exercise their rights under the legal system.
For Souktel, the project presented a unique design challenge: “This isn’t just a simple case of sending information back and forth by SMS,” explained Project Manager Nicola Cuoco. “Here, we needed to custom-build a system that analyzes requests as they come in, tags and sorts them, sends them securely to the right team of lawyers—and handles multiple languages”. She adds: “Designing tech solutions for complex problems is at the heart of Souktel’s work. Our hope is that by providing better access to basic information, we can help refugees across Turkey get the help they need sooner”.