Everyday Legal Problems

SJIP focuses on peoples’ everyday legal problems, with which we refer to any unresolved problem – a dispute, disagreement, grievance, or other individually experienced problem in daily life – which could be resolved in a legal way, that is, through mediation or adjudication by a third party or by reconciliation among parties themselves.

Through research and dialogue, SJIP has identified an overview of Syrian everyday legal problems, which can be ordered into fifteen categories.

Violence against women

Gender based violence and discrimination against women.

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Domestic physical abuse
  • Domestic sexual violence, including rape
  • Sexual exploitation by state/non-state armed actors, including rape
  • Denial of reproductive care
  • Human trafficking
  • Rejected from job for being a woman
  • Restrictions of freedom of women
  • Father does not approve travel of child/ren
  • Problems with inheritance rights
  • Recruitment of women in war

As a female Syrian refugee in a neighbouring country, I commonly face harassment and discrimination, for example in the work place or when dealing with people in power.

Problems with personal documents

Loss and inability to obtain civil status (marital-, birth-, death-, proof of life-certificates, etc), educational documents (enrolment, grade level, diplomas, certificates, etc), and identity documentation (passport, ID card, driving license).

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Do not have ID or status documents (civil status documents, ID documents or education documents)
  • Confiscation of ID or status documents
  • No recognition of ID or status documents
  • No access to civil registration office

My marriage can’t be registered because I have no identity papers. That’s why I can’t register my children either. They will be stateless like me. Only my husband can register them, but he left. We don’t have civil documents, so we don’t have a future.

Problems with housing, land and property

Loss of owned or rented land and/or property without due compensation, and restrained ability to prove ownership or tenancy agreement.

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Damage to land or property
  • Expropriation from land or property
  • Confiscation (by decree) of land or property
  • Loss of ownership documentation
  • Owner is forced to transfer property
  • Lack of compensation for damages/destruction of land or property
  • Non-recognition of title of land/property
  • Landlord raising rent unilaterally
  • Unsuitable renting conditions
  • Termination of rent
  • Eviction from rented land and/or house by landlord
  • Eviction from rented land and/or house by armed actors (state/non-state)
  • Lack of compensation for damaged/destroyed rented land and/or house
  • Loss of tenancy documentation
  • Cannot get tenancy because of sex or origin (discrimination)

At this stage, I can no longer get insurance against damages to my house or other property, as insurance policies state specifically that damages sustained during the crisis are not covered. I will not be able to rebuild my apartment.

I am 15 years old. My brother married me off to a man twenty-years older than me, because he couldn’t afford to take care of me after we lost our parents.

Lack of access to public services

Lack of adequate access to public services (hospitals, clinics, schools, etc) and utilities (water, electricity, gas, roads).

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Denied access to healthcare
  • Denied access to education
  • Denied access to public transport
  • Denied access to infrastructure (roads, bridges etc.)
  • Lack or low quality of water, electricity, gas and similar services
People are living without some of the most basic of life’s necessities.

Employment problems

Deterioration of employment conditions, resulting in insecure and exploitative work environments.

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Unfairly dismissed from work
  • Irregular work (absence of valid contract)
  • Unpaid wages
  • Dangerous working conditions
  • Excessive work hours
  • Workplace discrimination

We actually have strong labour laws, protecting workers. The problem is that workers often have no contract and do not enjoy these protections.


Theft, violence, and other unlawful claims on, or threats to life and property.

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Theft
  • Insult
  • Libel
  • Fraud
  • Robbery and burglary
  • Harassment
  • Assault and battery
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder

The neighbours gathered in front of the forced door. Kids were pleading to leave their teacher alone. But their pleas made no difference. Their teacher was kidnapped, taken out of the house blindfolded. His mother is still waiting for his return.

Family problems

Separation of families and personal status disputes.

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Forced disappearance of family members
  • Family member abandons the family
  • Separation of family
  • Disputes over legal guardianship of minors
  • Denial of child visitation rights
  • Divorce
  • Inheritance and wills
  • Child maintenance or spouse support (alimony)

My mother and father broke up and fled the country. My father took me, and my mother took my sister. I miss them both, but we can’t travel to see each other.

Problems with welfare and social services

Inhibited access to welfare benefits (disability, poverty, child support) and social welfare.

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Problems with pensions
  • Problems with welfare benefits (i.e. disability, poverty, children related benefits)

I lost an eye by a sniper shot. After several painful surgeries and several months at the hospital, I got divorced because my husband couldn’t take a wife with one eye. I was left alone with no support.

As a farmer in the private sector, I am at a disadvantage because the procedures to get an agricultural loan are very complicated and time consuming.

Lack of consumer protection

Sustaining harm or risk of harm by sales of dangerous and defective goods.

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Defective goods and services

You can’t really trust that the food at the local shop is safe because the owner bribes the consumer protection agency to stay away from his business.

Disputes between neighbours

Local disputes over housing, land, property, or other neighbourhood tensions. 

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Regular and excessive noise
  • Neighbour violence

Some people accused me of being part of a parking dispute in my neighbourhood, which I had no part in whatsoever. They extorted money from me by violently threatening with arrest and harm, pretending that they had connections with authorities.

I was harassed inside a police station, where I was supposed to be protected. I was able to get out, thanks to having a well-connected relative.

I bumped my car into a pedestrian crossing the road. No one was hurt, fortunately. But when I offered to help the pedestrian, she declined because she was from a poor rural community and expected that I would blame and perhaps even blackmail her.


Abuse of entrusted powers and lack of fair access to justice system, state and non-state public authorities, procedures, and resources.

This category includes the following everyday legal problems:

  • Asked to pay bribes
  • Abuse of power (nepotism and impunity)

I had to renew my driver’s license, but I could neither do the paperwork myself nor provide all required supporting documents during the crisis, so I had to pay an unreasonable amount to an unofficial middleman to renew my license.

Research methodology

The SJIP research team identified the legal problems through a combination of different knowledge gathering methods. Extensive desk research, interviews, and focus groups with relevant experts and practitioners, combined with feedback from the SJIP Stakeholder Team, resulted in the overview and categorisation of legal problems above.