Caritas-Turkey Sheltering Iraqi Refugees

Women and Youth Among the Main Beneficiaries

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ISTANBUL, Turkey, NOV. 30, 2006 (Zenit.org).- This country's Caritas agency is sheltering thousands of Iraqi families, most of whom are Chaldean Christian women fleeing from violence.



This is not something new: Caritas-Turkey has sheltered Iraqi refugees since the first Gulf War in 1991.

The organization is offering health care to all needy Iraqis. It is also offering legal advice for those requesting asylum in countries such as Canada, Australia and the United States.

However, since the start of the second Gulf War in 2003, the countries that received Iraqis and even the United Nations itself have restricted the criteria of access to the status of refugee, reported the weekly France Catholique.

At the same time, the situation in Iraq, particularly for Christians, has become increasingly dangerous. So Caritas-Turkey has had to assist refugees who might well stay in the country for years.

The people in question have no social security and no right to education. They have often been victims of violence or threats, and constitute one of the largest Catholic communities in Istanbul.

Caritas' legal service has registered more than 600 families as refugees with the Turkish authorities, the United Nations and embassies. This service costs about €80,000 ($105,000) a year.

Assistance to refugees includes health care during their temporary stay in Turkey. Every year it allocates €20,000 to subsidize their medical expenses.

Formation

Caritas is also giving formation to Iraqi refugees ages 15 to 17. In addition to school education, it offers workshops in areas such as gardening, dressmaking and costume jewelry.

Also being promoted is a Solidarity Group with Refugee Women, to improve the social and psychological situation of Iraqi refugee women and girls. The project promotes formation courses and family celebrations thanks to the generosity of Caritas volunteers.

The Salesian community, under the direction of Brother Benjamin Puthota, has made it possible to guarantee the education of children in premises of the Apostolic Vicariate of Istanbul, which is next to the Caritas offices. Salesian Brother Rodolfo Antoniazzi is director of the Youth Center.

Both educational projects are financed by the Salesian Family and its benefactors worldwide.