In late 2014, Turkey committed to issuing Syrian refugees temporary work permits and identification cards, which allow them access to basic services like healthcare and education. It remains to be seen whether all refugees will have access to lawful work, and whether the new regulations will be implemented with the issues of gender, labor rights, and fostering entrepreneurship in mind.
The temporary identification card program would secure Syrian refugees’ legal status in the country, after years of being considered “guests” under temporary protection. However, the cards do not grant them official refugee status, which would entitle them to broader benefits like housing, public relief and various social services. In addition to the identification cards, the accompanying measure allocates work permits to the nearly 1.7 million Syrians in the country.
In a victory for economic rights for refugees in South Africa, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) successfully appealed for refugees’ and asylum-seekers’ right to own businesses on behalf of the Somali Association of South Africa and the Ethiopian Community of South Africa.
In September 2014, the South African Supreme Court of Appeal upheld refugees’ ability to operate their own businesses without fear of police reprisal. This decision represents a big achievement for refugee work rights in South Africa, as small enterprises are a common source of livelihood for citizens and asylum-seekers alike.
The appeal came as an attempt to challenge the state-sanctioned xenophobia that has been rampant in the country for the last several years. It reached a critical point in 2012, when police in Limpopo coordinated a government raid where officers shut down businesses operating without permits and confiscated property. “Operation Hardstick” unfairly targeted small businesses operated by asylum-seekers and refugees, who depend on these businesses as their only option for a source of income.