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September 3, 2014

Asylum Access and The Refugee Work Rights Coalition Release Global Refugee Work Rights Report

by Asylum Access

Today, in commemoration of U.S. Labor Day, Asylum Access and the Refugee Work Rights Coalition release the publication, Global Refugee Work Rights Report 2014: Taking the Movement from Theory to Practice.

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The report examines the laws, policies and practices for refugee work rights in 15 countries around the globe (affecting a total of 30% of the world’s refugee population). Our findings reveal that almost half of the 15 countries examined in the report have a complete legal bar to refugee employment, and in the countries where some legal right to work exists, significant de-facto barriers to employment, like strict encampment, exorbitant permit fees or widespread discrimination, undermine refugees’ ability to access lawful employment.

In simple terms, refugees’ work rights are respected as the exception, not the rule.

The publication also calls upon stakeholders – governments, UN agencies, civil society, refugee and local communities – to take concrete steps to bring national employment laws and policies around the world into line with international human rights and refugee law standards. In doing so, the report (i) provides a breakdown of the right to work under international law, which may be used by advocates to inform policy makers of their legal commitments; (ii) an explanation of the economic arguments in favor of granting refugees’ work rights, which may be used to supplement legal arguments; and (iii) concrete recommendations for achieving legal reform, and administrative and judicial support for work rights domestically.

Evidence from Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, and Zambia reveals that working refugees bestow a range of benefits upon their host countries. Refugee entrepreneurs stimulate economies, creating businesses and jobs. They bring new skills into the country and place new demands for goods and services, diversifying markets and expanding trade. They pay taxes and prevent wage-depression.

The reality is that refugees have proven their ability to be more than mere recipients of humanitarian assistance. They are teachers, doctors, seamstresses, and entrepreneurs – people just like us – who want to put their skills to use and find economic stability for themselves and their families.

Its time that we start mobilizing as advocates and let decision makers know that refugee work rights matter.

To learn more about how to get involved with the Refugee Work Rights Campaign and Coalition, visit this page.

Anna Wirth is a Policy Officer at Asylum Access (bio here). She leads the Refugee Work Rights Coalition.

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