Civil Society and Interpreting for Refugees: Izmir Case

Tıson A.

Ege University First International Symposium on Arts and Humanities (EGE-ISAH), İzmir, Turkey, 12 - 14 December 2019

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Unpublished
  • City: İzmir
  • Country: Turkey
  • Dokuz Eylül University Affiliated: Yes



This paper aims to highlight the need for interpreting that is ever increasing with the influx of particularly Syrian refugees in the recent few years in Turkey after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria. Thus, this study analyzes how these needs are met in a country where community interpreting is not commonly recognized as a profession. For this need, the civil society currently appears to be the most concerned party since the government falls behind providing organized interpreting services. To this end, civil society organizations have been contacted in order to identify their needs and challenges in their interaction with refugees and how they recruit interpreters in order to eliminate communication problems. As for a method, the representatives of such organizations have been given semi-structured interviews to provide an overview of interpreting for refugees from the perspective of one of the primary interlocutors of the interaction refugees have in their host country. The results of the study discuss the challenges that Turkey has in the face of new phenomenon of having a large group of potentially permanent refugees, which is a big change since Turkey was only a transit country for asylum-seekers from the Middle East until recently. According to the analysis, due to the lack of trained community interpreters in Arabic, refugees themselves who are non-professionals act as interpreters in various situations such as asylum applications, interaction at the UN office or at any service providing institution at the public or private level. While these crossovers in interpreting practices are identified, challenges are laid out with a descriptive approach and solutions are offered intending to eliminate shortcomings in the interpreting needs of refugees in Turkey.

Key Words: refugee interpreting, community interpreting, civil society, semi-structured interviews, descriptive approach