Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon should be free to earn a living

UNHCR syria

(Credit: UNHCR)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Misty Buswell, Director of Policy and Advocacy in the Middle East and North Africa, International Rescue Committee


• Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan remain largely excluded from the employment market in those countries.

• The pandemic has hit the informal sector, where many are forced to make a living.

• Host countries must lift legal barriers, and international community increase donations.

With the conflict in Syria now having entered its 10th year, 7.1 million Syrians remain displaced in neighbouring countries, and the crisis has become one of the largest anywhere in the world. Today, the international donor community, host governments and UN agencies will meet at the fourth Brussels “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” Conference to once again work towards finding a political solution to the crisis – and pledge further support for those whose lives have been torn apart by it.

In 2016, five years after the conflict in Syria began, the first iteration of today’s conference took place in London, where world leaders met to raise funds and set ambitious goals to support refugees caught up in the Syrian crisis as well as the countries hosting them.

 

Two countries of particular focus were Jordan and Lebanon, which between them host 2.8 million Syrian refugees. Concrete agreements, known as “compacts”, were reached with both countries, and $12 billion in funding was pledged over five years. These compacts were a potentially game-changing combination of funding provided through grants and concessional loans that, linked to national policy reforms, would increase jobs, protection and education for Syrian refugees and vulnerable host communities.

A new report launched by the International Rescue Committee, A Decade in Search of Work, shows that while global support for Jordan and Lebanon continues, the ambition of the compacts to increase refugee inclusion has not yet been fully realized.

As things stand, 78% of Syrian refugees in Jordan and 73% in Lebanon live below the poverty line, and the majority rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Restrictive laws and policies in both countries limit their ability to enter employment – and, though some steps have been taken by both governments to address these challenges, they have not yet gone far enough.

Syrian refugees in Jordan have limited work opportunities
Syrian refugees in Jordan have limited work opportunities
Image: UNHCR

For example, work permits are a requirement for refugees and they are extremely hard to come by. Permits need to be sponsored by a national employer and are restricted to a very limited number of sectors, due to the high levels of unemployment among the host populations. This is only one obstacle among many that exist for refugees to reap the benefits of what is outlined in the compacts.

Though it was a positive step in 2018 when Syrian refugees in Jordan were given permission to start home-based businesses in certain sectors, very few have so far registered due to the need for a valid passport – which 95% of them do not have. There are also limitations to starting businesses outside the home, including the need to enter into a joint venture with a Jordanian partner.

In Lebanon, refugees are not permitted to start a business without legal residency – and the vast majority do not have this. Businesses in both countries therefore largely remain informal, and owners are limited in their ability to access formal financial assistance meaning they can neither grow their business, nor protect it.

To make matters worse, the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide curfews have meant that many refugees, often operating in informal sectors, have had to close businesses, lost work opportunities and are unable to earn enough to support their families.

The distribution of Syrian refugees in Lebanon
The distribution of Syrian refugees in Lebanon
Image: UNHCR

To enable the full potential of refugees and to enhance their contribution to boosting each country’s economy, the IRC report outlines three key things that need to happen.

First, the international community should increase its financial support to both countries, and continue to tie it to national policy reforms that improve labour market access and entrepreneurship opportunities – for both refugees (of all nationalities) and vulnerable host communities.

Second, Jordan and Lebanon should remove legal barriers and extend livelihood opportunities to increase the self-reliance of both refugee and host populations. This has become even more urgent with the COVID-19 pandemic. National policy reforms must be implemented in both countries to address the legal barriers refugees face in accessing jobs and business opportunities.

Third, donors must provide additional funding to support refugee and host populations who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. This should be in the form of immediate cash assistance for those most in need, including cash grants for entrepreneurs to cover fixed costs while they are out of business. Additionally, long-term, multi-year livelihoods funding for NGOs is required to enhance economic recovery, grow small businesses and support refugees to become self-reliant.

Most refugees want to return home to Syria in the long-term, but the vast majority cannot do so in the foreseeable future. As the global focus is fixed on events in other parts of the world, refugees remain stuck in a system that continues to hold them back; there is a real risk that they will be forgotten about – despite their needs continuing to grow. With the economic effects of the pandemic, they are being stretched beyond their limits, and many have already reached their breaking point.

Middle East and North Africa, Fourth Industrial Revolution

What is the World Economic Forum doing about shaping the future of the Arab region?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has presented the Middle East and North Africa with unprecedented challenges that need to be solved through community innovation, collaboration and technology.

Together with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), we have selected the 100 most promising Arab start-ups shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2019.

Entrepreneurs and start-ups are playing a key role in facilitating new ideas, strategies and progress in society – and need to be given a greater platform to meet the region’s most pressing challenges.

Our 2019 selection builds on the success of the 100 Arab start-ups initiative that began in 2017, working to integrate the Arab world’s most promising start-up entrepreneurs into a national and regional dialogue on pressing challenges.

You can contribute to improving the Arab region’s future and solving its unprecedented challenges by partnering with us.

Read more about the 100 Arab start-ups selected for 2019 in our Impact Story.

Today’s conference is an opportunity to address this. Now more than ever, donors and refugee hosting governments should urgently take action to prevent them from being plunged further into poverty, and support refugees and vulnerable host communities to navigate their way towards sustainable economic recovery.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Governments should renew efforts to reform support to agriculture

UN gender agency hails record-breaking number of women in new US Congress as ‘historic victory’

UN chief welcomes Taliban’s temporary truce announcement, encourages all parties to embrace ‘Afghan-owned peace’

World Summit Awards 2016: Sustainable impact through digital innovation

GSMA Mobile 360 – Latin America at Mexico City: Intelligently Connecting to a Better Future, in association with The European Sting

A European young student shares his thoughts on Quality Education

Algorithms are being used to convict criminals and decide jail time. We need to make sure they are fair

How regenerative agroforestry could solve the climate crisis

UN chief laments ending of Cold War-era disarmament treaty

Russia and the West use the same tactics to dismember Ukraine

Brexit: MEPs concerned about citizens’ rights

EU-Japan relations: Foreign Affairs MEPs back Strategic Partnership Agreement

How can you or your organization support the Hour of Pride initiative?

From Russia with love: Brussels and Moscow close to an agreement on Ukraine’s gas supplies

It’s time to build a responsible media supply chain

Amazon on fire: the interference in global health

Statement by OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría on the outcome of COP 25

COVID-19 lockdown hits working mothers harder than fathers

Can privatisation be the panacea for the lack of growth in Europe?

Beyond 2020: How the world might recover and rebuild, according to experts

“The Arctic climate matters: to what degree?”, a Sting Exclusive co-authored by UN Environment’s Jan Dusik and Slava Fetisov

5G security: Member States report on progress on implementing the EU toolbox and strengthening safety measures

IMF: The global economy keeps growing except Eurozone

‘No steps taken’ so far to end Israel’s illegal settlement activity on Palestinian land – UN envoy

These are the countries best prepared for the fight against cancer

Guinea-Bissau needs ‘genuinely free and fair elections’ to break cycle of instability

A Sting Exclusive: “Delivering on the Environmental Dimension of the new Sustainable Development Agenda”, Ulf Björnholm underscores from UNEP Brussels

COVID-19: A new drug is tested, and other top science stories of the week

OECD tells Eurozone to prepare its banks for a tsunami coming from developing countries

Tax evasion and fraud threaten the European project

To all far-right partisans who exploit Charlie Hebdo atrocity: a peaceful reply given by a peaceful student

UN General Assembly President upholds value of multilateralism in speech closing annual debate

Australia wildfires: communities must stay vigilant, urges UN weather agency

The power of partnership: joining forces to fight financial crime

Climate change and health: an everyday solution

Russia: MEPs deplore military build-up, attack in Czechia and jailing of Navalny

The financial sector cripples Eurozone growth prospects

Trump’s trade wars: Aiming at long term gains for America

As children freeze to death in Syria, aid officials call for major cross-border delivery boost

3 steps to making multistakeholder partnerships a powerful force

Returning to free movement across borders is of utmost importance

Commission launches debate on responding to the impact of an ageing population

China joins list of nations banning the sale of old-style fossil-fuelled vehicles

“As German Chancellor I want to be able to cope with the merger of the real and digital economy”, Angela Merkel from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

Telecommunications and Internet: A Jungle with no principles?

Are we at risk of a financial crisis? Our new report takes a look

UN political chief calls for dialogue to ease tensions in Venezuela; Security Council divided over path to end crisis

COP21 Breaking News_09 December: The Draft Agreement Updated

An expert explains: How to turn industrial carbon emissions into building materials

Q&A on extraordinary remote participation procedure

COP22 addresses a strong global pledge to effectively implement the Paris Agreement

The ECB will do whatever it takes to set the Eurozone economy again in motion

ECB embarks on the risky trip to Eurozone banking universe

The US may be “open” to reviving TTIP, while the EU designs the future of trade with China

Businesses succeed internationally

Commission celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Jean Monnet Activities promoting European studies worldwide

Women vital for ‘new paradigm’ in Africa’s Sahel region, Security Council hears

Amazon fires: Health Effects, Near and Far

Journey of my life

Eurozone: Economic sentiment-business climate to collapse without support from exports

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s