Nearly 90% of the world’s refugees are hosted in countries that neighbour their homeland. Countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Ethiopia, already struggling to provide economic opportunities for their citizens, also need to cope with a large number of new arrivals. Many governments rely on the humanitarian aid system to support refugees, and restrict refugees participation in the labour market. This restriction has, for many, led to an erosion of skills and aspirations, and has exacerbated feelings of alienation and hopelessness. It is therefore not hard to imagine why some would attempt onward, often more dangerous, migration.
To address this problem, some important innovations are currently underway. This includes the creation of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) – areas where business and trade laws differ from the rest of the country in order to attract trade, investment and, therefore, jobs. Refugees could be given the right to work within those zones and contribute to the economy of the host country. Yet, not everyone agrees that SEZs can address the problems facing the world’s refugees. Firstly, there is the potential for exploitative and low-wage labour which is unmatched to the skills, aspirations and needs of refugees. Secondly, a focus on ‘jobs’ may distract governments from the pressing need to provide protection for those fleeing conflict, persecution and human rights abuses. To register for this event please click here