Thanks to the efforts of many counselling operators like Neda, UNHCR Turkey’s Counselling Line continues supporting refugees and asylum-seekers during the ongoing pandemic period.
Neda is a Farsi-speaking call centre operator working for UNHCR Turkey’s Counselling Line. Along with her thirty-three other team members, she answers various daily queries from refugees and asylum-seekers across the country. Since March 2020, when COVID-19 related restrictions were introduced in Turkey, Neda and her colleagues began working from home and had to adapt to a new daily routine, as they continued to provide assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers on a daily basis.
As all of UNHCR Turkey continued to deliver support for refugees by adapting to new ways of working throughout the pandemic period, Neda too adjusted her work routine to the new reality by turning her kitchen table into a small but cozy workstation.
“We are a professionally trained team working to help refugees and asylum-seekers. Our job is to recognize the needs of refugees and asylum-seekers and inform the right colleagues about their situation, so that they can take any necessary action,” Neda says. “Most of the time, we can help resolve refugees’ and asylum-seekers’ problems simply by guiding them on what steps to take, but sometimes we receive dire cases. We try to manage their requests to the best of our abilities, while protecting their rights and also informing them on the services available in Turkey,” she adds.
Having worked for the call centre for over a year now, Neda says the calls she receives during the day are mostly about the availability of services, state regulations and procedures, education, resettlement, refugees rights in Turkey, the availability of financial assistance and other questions related to issues that refugees and asylum-seekers face in their daily lives. “Sometimes, the refugees who are calling just need to pour out their hearts and need to feel heard and listened to. In such cases, we carefully listen to their problems and help them stay positive and hopeful. I strongly believe that all Counselling Line workers are indispensable messengers, helping refugees to identify their needs and providing them with the best solutions” says Neda, and adds “We all try to do our best.”
“I strongly believe that all Counselling Line workers are indispensable messengers, helping refugees to identify their needs and providing them with the best solutions.”
When it comes to how the COVID-19 period affected her as a Counselling Line operator, Neda says she has mixed feelings. On the one hand, after she started working from home, Neda was satisfied as she and her family were able to take better precautions to stay safe and healthy at home. On the other hand, she misses the dynamism of the office environment and her team members around her at work. Despite the challenging situation, she motivates herself by staying positive and keeping in good spirits.
The UNHCR Counselling Line started operating in Ankara in March 2017 with partner support until UNHCR started managing the Counselling Line in July 2019. Between then and November 2020, the UNHCR Counselling Line has received over 681,000 calls from all over the country. The pandemic has kept Neda and her colleagues busy: since starting to work from home in March this year, the Counselling Line received close to 342,000 calls, with each operator receiving up to 30 calls per day.
The line operates in four main languages: English, Arabic, Turkish and Farsi. Many other languages, such as French, Somali, Kurdish, Dari, Pashtu, Urdu and Uzbek are available upon request. UNHCR Turkey’s Counselling Line can be reached at 444 48 68.
Thanks to the support of EU Humanitarian Aid, France, Germany, the United States of America and other donors, through the UNHCR Counselling Line, refugees and asylum-seekers can receive counselling on the procedures, rights and obligations relating to their stay in Turkey, details on services available to them, and advice and information relevant to their individual situation. With this help, refugees can access better services and have better living conditions in their country of asylum, one call at a time.