Monday, October 29, 2018

Nationalism 016: A Refugee's Right to Work

There is no sense to the aversion to employing refugees in the host country. Such an aversion does a great deal of harm, and no actual good. The good attributed to these attitudes is imaginary.

A substantial portion of the problem of refugees is caused by humans.

Here, I am not talking about the humans who created the refugees - either through violent conflict of environmental degradation. That is one of the ways in which we cause the problem, but not the one that concerns me here.

It is caused by the fact that, once a refugee enters a camp in a host country, she is not permitted to contribute to that country. She is forced to sit in a shelter and receive handouts. She becomes a much greater burden than she needs to be and, in fact, a much greater problem than she wants to be (in most cases).

Reference: Why Denying Refugees the Right to Work Is a Catastrophic Error. This is an edited extract from their book, Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System

It is absurd to think that a population of, let us say, 50,000 people who are productive contributors to a state on one side of an imaginary line become a burden to be warehoused on the other side of that imaginary line. This is a part of the absurdity of, "they are taking our jobs". This is scapegoating.

It is as if you were to be so kind as to offer refuge to somebody stranded in a life-threatening snow storm, then deny them any opportunity to help clean the house, chop some firewood, or fix a meal because your "prosperity" depends on doing this yourself. Meanwhile, you are providing this person with food and other necessities, complaining about the fact that he is such a "burden" on your household, and promising never to be so kind in the future.

This is a significant part of the tragedy of the current system for handling refugees - the fact that prohibiting peaceful and honest contributions to the host society feeds a hatred of refugees that, in turn, feeds a resolve to offer no more aid. This is not only harmful to the refugees, it is harmful to those who are acting on an irrational hatred of "foreigners" as opposed to the same type of rational cooperation and mutual support (and mutual benefit) that one provides to fellow nationals.

So, you have a tent city with 50,000 refugees in it. Why not make it a city? You will need infrastructure. Well, there's people in that city capable of working - building structures, developing roads, putting in a sanitation system, teaching, sewing, capable of operating indoor gardens and farms, sewing, manufacturing, collecting and reporting news, providing entertainment from poetry and literature to singing and stage performance, and the like. These things happen in a camp anyway. However, because these operations are officially prohibited, they are not policed, contracts cannot be enforced, and the best businesses are those that do not require any type of capital such as tools (e.g., prostitution).

Indeed, a refugee community permitted to actually work and earn money will have money to spend. Thus, it has the potential to be a source of jobs for members of the host country - providing the refugees with goods and services that will help them in the businesses.

A recent study commissioned by the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford and conducted in Uganda - one of a few nations that allows refugees tow ork - shows that they can make a contribution. In Kampala, the nation's capital, 21% of refugees run a business that employs at least one other person; of those they employ, 40% are citizens of the host country.

Again, this does not include the contribution that these businesses make as consumers of the goods and services provided by others. This also does not include the tax revenue that legal and open refugee-run businesses provide to the state.

The average length of stay in a refugee camp is 17 years. Putting one's life on hold for 17 years is a tremendous burden. It is not unreasonable to compare this to having no life at all. It is little wonder that so many refugees avoid the camps and become illegal residents in urban centers. It is little wonder that so many refugees pay smugglers hundreds or thousands of dollars to smuggle them into another country - a journey where they risk life and limb (including rape, torture, and drowning) . . . because, all things considered, it is better than wasting away in a camp.

The article referenced above describes a pilot program between England, the World Bank, and Jordan to provide work opportunities to Syrian refugees who have fled to that country. One of the points they make is that it has proven to be easier to create work opportunities for these people nearer their country of origin - where they speak the language, know the culture, and in many cases know other people - than to find them work in countries such as Germany where they lack the language and other training skills given to those who grow up in Germany.

The bottom line is . . . let the refugees work. They are made better off. Those around them - those in their host country in particular - are better off. And, when the situation changes in their original country and they are ready to return home, it is not such a long journey to make.

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