When People Flee: Refugee Mother Seeks Better Life for Her Children

‘When People Flee’ is a blog series surrounding the difficulties refugees and migrants face, and how ABA ROLI is working to address these issues.

Refugee Legal Assistance Center Advocate, Astghik Sayadyan (left) during legal consultation with Karine.
Refugee Legal Assistance Center Advocate Astghik Sayadyan (left) during legal consultation with Karine*

Like many Syrian citizens of Armenian descent fleeing the violence of the Syrian civil war, Karine*, her husband, and their three children left Syria for Turkey, a country that has been overwhelmed by this humanitarian crisis. For a while, Karine worked as a cook, but as time passed, the family slid into poverty and she started to think about her youngest child’s education. Fearing that he would forget his native language and homeland by attending a Turkish school, Karine moved her family to Armenia in 2015, with the help of an Armenian abbey based in Urfa.

With few resources available and her husband unable to find work as a blacksmith, the family continued to struggle; and with child, Karine could not work to provide for her children. To help the family, her 16-year-old daughter began working as a waitress at a Syrian-Armenian restaurant, but even minimum wages were not enough. Facing hunger and deprivation during her seventh month of pregnancy, Karine applied for maternity benefits at the Arabkir Territorial Center of Social Security which is responsible for distributing benefits, but was refused on the grounds of having improper documents. Karine, fearing she would not receive benefits, sought help from the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative’s (ABA ROLI) Refugee Legal Assistance Center (RLAC) in Yerevan, in September 2017.

After listening to Karine’s story, RLAC advocate, Astghik, called the territorial center and discovered the translation of her name was wrong on her travel documents, and thus the reason the Armenian government denied her the benefits. Finally, after fixing the translation, Karine received the maternity benefits to help support her and her family. As informed by the territorial center, this is a frequent issue for their case management system and the list of beneficiaries with refugee documents. Karine expressed her thanks to the staff after learning she would finally receive her benefits, “Maternity benefits may seem like a small thing to others, but believe me, RLAC staff gave the baby under my breast a chance to be born (when) we did not otherwise have a means for our daily bread.”

*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.

This series is a part of “When People Flee: Rule of Law and Forced Migration,” ABA ROLI’s 2018 Annual Conference on Contemporary Rule of Law Issues on April 17, 2018, at The George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs in Washington, D.C.

To learn more about our work with refugees, please contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

ABA ROLI’s work to support the needs of refugees, newly naturalized citizens and asylum seekers in Armenia is a gift funded by United States Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.