LONDON—George Soros today said his Open Society Foundations would contribute US$25 million to train up to 1,000 paralegals to be recruited from among the Syrian refugees and their host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. The paralegals would assist refugees to obtain work permits, register births, and otherwise stabilize their lives.
This new initiative, announced in London at the Syria Donors Conference, will provide life-changing legal assistance to the community of nearly two million Syrian refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon. George Soros challenged other philanthropists and government donors to match his funding to double its budget and fully realize the potential of this effort.
“Syrians forced to flee their homes often find themselves in a legal abyss with devastating economic effects; this new initiative coincides with the Jordanian government’s own positive steps to improve the financial independence of refugees and will allow Syrians to improve their livelihoods now and in the future,” said George Soros, founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations.
With no quick solutions to the Syrian crisis on the horizon, refugees’ legal needs are becoming increasingly urgent. “Through legal empowerment, this project will help Syrian refugees to better contribute to and participate in the societies where they now live; this will also help host countries by reducing the dependency and consequently the cost of refugee communities,” commented Ammar Abu Zayyad, executive director of the Open Society Foundations’ Arab Regional Office.
Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon confront numerous legal challenges including registration of marriages, divorces, and births, as well as obstacles to accessing health, education, the labor market, property, and entrepreneurship rights. As part of this project, community facilitators and paralegals from the refugee and host community will work with Syrians to find solutions to these legal problems and to build longer-term knowledge, understanding, and policy change.
This new initiative will build on existing civil society projects in the region to promote legal empowerment and community-based justice services.
The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.