DRC legal aid empowers refugee women in GreeceCrossing borders and starting a life in a new country brings many questions forth. Refugees need information on asylum procedures, their status, their rights and the related legal framework.
Greece has received the second largest number of refugee arrivals in the EU since September 2015 after Italy and there are currently more than 51.000 people stranded in the country. Many of them have applied for asylum in Greece and hope to build a new life there.
Danish Refugee Council is committed to establishing access to legal aid to those in need of international protection providing the assistance of professional legal actors. In every mainland refugee site where DRC is present, its lawyers along with skilled cultural mediators, regularly conduct legal information sessions, individual legal counselling and individual legal representation with the support of the European Commission's department for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).
The legal information sessions cover a broad range of topics, from the relocation program scheme, the family reunification procedure and the asylum procedure in Greece to the integrative legal procedure for those obtaining international protection.
At the same time, through individual representation before the Asylum Service and other administrative authorities and through an inter-agency referral pathway, DRC legal aid teams ensure that asylum seekers are equally and effectively assisted. But they will not stop there. DRC legal aid staff try to empower refugees every chance they get.
This was the case with the International Day to End Violence against Women in Koutsochero site, central Greece. During a whole week till early December, DRC staff organized related activities such as a presentation about inspirational women and the history of women rights in Europe in the 20th century.
A central part of the events was the legal information session led by DRC Legal Aid Team Leader who informed refugee women on the historical and contemporary context of women rights. The eleven participants from Syria, Iraq and Congo also had the chance to learn about gender based violence issues and ask their questions at the end.
“Refugee women were extremely interested in divorce legalities”, said Alexia, DRC Education Coordinator, “and they seemed quite impressed by the fact that refusing to have children is a ground for divorce in Greece. This is a very different setting for many women from the one in the countries they came from,” she added.
“It is great to know that I have powerful rights” stressed 23-year-old Shahla from Iraq, when the legal session came to the end.
“I had no idea about all these! Thank you!” added 39-year-old Moana from Syria.
“Women cannot claim their rights when they are not aware of them”, said 32-year-old Thethe from Congo.