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October 15, 2015

Asylum Access Submits Written Testimony for Senate Hearing on Refugee Resettlement

by Asylum Access

What’s the connection between refugee work rights and the U.S. resettlement program? Asylum Access believes the U.S. has an important role to play in ensuring the rights of Syrian (and other) refugees, whether they are in Jordan, Turkey, Europe or Michigan. For this reason, the U.S. should vastly increase its resettlement quotas for Syrian refugees to 100,000 people next year.

On October 1, 2015 Asylum Access submitted written testimony to a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the fiscal and security impacts of refugee resettlement. Based our ten years of experience and research for the Global Refugee Work Rights Report, Asylum Access highlighted that 1) when given access to safe work, refugees contribute far more to their host states than the cost of initial settlement, and 2) security threats and onward migration may actually be mitigated by providing refugees access to opportunity, jobs, and protection from exploitation in first countries of refuge.

Today, nearly 60 million people are displaced as a result of persecution and conflict. About 20 million of those have been forced out of their home countries and become classified as refugees. Half of all refugees today are in “protracted refugee situations” lasting for at least 25 years. This means that about 10 million individuals are living without the right to work, attend school or build a career for 25 years in a foreign hostile country.

Although the initial investment to settle a refugee can deter countries from accepting refugees and granting them rights, these fears are often misplaced. In fact, refugees are natural job creators. In Uganda, researchers from University of Oxford found that refugees who were granted access to the labor market created numerous employment opportunities for national Ugandans. As a strong consumer base in Uganda, refugees also satisfy market demand, increase cross-border trade and attract people and capital from all over the country.

In Ecuador, Asylum Access research found that refugees filled gaps in the economy and created new markets and services. When Ecuador granted refugees equal access to employment opportunities and workplace rights in September 2008, the country saw its economy grow every year for the next five years in the midst of the worst global economic recession since the 1930s.

As the number of refugees continues to grow, rations are being cut back due to a shortage of funding, so many can neither lawfully work to feed their families nor depend on international aid. Some resort to illicit means of secondary migration or join armed groups promising security. The U.S. plays an influential role in urging countries of first asylum to prevent this movement by assisting with lawful resettlement, and aiding host countries in providing access to opportunity and self-sufficiency.

Asylum Access’ experience around the world strongly suggests that the U.S. has the capacity to effectively integrate larger numbers of refugees than currently allotted. The first step in demonstrating the U.S.’ commitment to assisting countries of first asylum is to increase the annual number of resettled refugees, thereby standing as a moral authority while proving the positive economic impacts refugees have once they are given the human right to work.

To read more, check out our full written testimony here.

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