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.
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.
Justice prevailed on Friday as the High Court of Kenya quashed the Government’s encampment directive, ruling in favor of fundamental freedoms and dignity for urban refugees.
The government directive was first announced in December 2012 and again in January 2013 and, if implemented, would have required all refugees residing in urban areas to relocate to Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. In short, the policy would have devastated the lives of urban refugees in Kenya, forcing them to abandon the homes they had resided in for years (some even decades), separate from loved ones and sever all ties to businesses and communities.
The directive was challenged on the basis that it violated fundamental freedoms enshrined in Kenya’s Constitution, the Refugee Act, 1996 and a number of other international human rights instruments. The High Court agreed.
A 29 year-old Ethiopian refugee named Girma (name changed for anonymity) has been living in Nairobi, Kenya for over five years. Though he graduated from Kenyatta University in Nairobi with a Masters in Economics in 2010, Girma has been facing challenges in his job search. Many young people entering the job market will sympathize with the fact that employment is hard to find.
But Girma’s story is different – he has been facing discrimination in hiring just because he is a refugee.
During our interview, Girma noted that many potential employers both within the private sector and the government are not interested in hiring refugee graduates. In fact, he was explicitly told in a recent interview that the organization simply didn’t offer jobs to refugees. Girma added,
“even though Kenya’s economy is a developing one . . . there should at least be a legitimate ground for refugees to assert their right to work.”
For many refugees residing in the urban regions of Kenya, business cannot be run as usual. As the High Court case of Kituo Cha Sheria v. Attorney General remains underway, members from the urban refugee community in Nairobi reported to Asylum Access that they fear participating in society as usual while their right to work and move freely outside refugee camps hang in the balance.
As previously reported by Asylum Access, the Kenyan government issued a directive in late 2012 and again in early 2013 to force all urban refugees to relocate to the already overcrowded refugee camps of Dadaab and Kakuma. Reports from human rights organizations emerged soon after the directive’s announcement, stating that as a result of the policies, refugees in Kenya’s urban centers, particularly those in Somali enclaves, had been subjected to a wide range of abuses, including police harassment, violence, discrimination, bribery and arbitrary detention. Local NGO Kituo Cha Sheria challenged the policies before the High Court, and on 23 January, the Court issued provisional orders to halt the implementation of the policy.
Asylum Access has been closely following a landmark case before the High Court of Kenya that will make a determination regarding the fundamental rights of all urban refugees in the country.
The case, which is scheduled to commence mid-March, will determine the validity of a policy recently issued by the Kenyan Government requiring all urban refugees to move from urban residences to overcrowded refugee camps. The policy is said to violate both Kenya’s Constitution and International Law, interfering with a refugee’s fundamental right to freedom of movement, work, education and family. In short, the directive, unless invalidated by the High Court, will stifle a refugee’s chance to live a normal life and be self-sufficient.
“We needed to seek asylum somewhere where there was peace. Tanzania was the closest country. But to live, we need something to live, somewhere to sleep. We didn’t come with anything like money,” says Lwenga, a Congolese refugee in Dar es Salaam. He tells this to me as he explains why he, other Congolese and Tanzanians are working together in a small soap-making business.
It’s not an easy business. Lwenga and Esale—another refugee—must take several kilos of the boiled fruit of the oil palm tree and press them in what they call a “local machine” to extract the oil. This takes two men and several hours. “With this machine,” says Lwenga, “it takes the whole day. You arrive, start extracting and then you can work until night.”
Originally published on the Asylum Access website. See original here.
By: Jessica Therkelsen, Global Policy Director, Asylum Access
The Kenyan government’s decision this week to force all refugees to leave urban centers and report to camps violates human rights and represents a backslide in the government’s approach to urban refugees.
Host to nearly 700,000 refugees, Kenya has since 2006 implemented laws and policies that increasingly improve compliance with international human rights standards. Urban refugees have enjoyed legal status, access to employment, opportunity, and services outside of camps. Following recent attacks in Nairobi attributed to al-Shabaab, a Somali militant group, Kenya is now citing national security in its decision to send nearly 100,000 people to overcrowded and dangerous camps.
Under the new measure, these refugees will be forced to leave their rebuilt lives for internment in a camp with no access to freedom of movement and serious security risks.
By: Anna Chen.
In a home virtually empty of furniture, Maria* shows me the wood boards lying among sawdust, glue, paint and work tools. Donning a white face mask, she squats down and begins to saw at a board. These are the first steps of making what will become large wooden mirror frames, a craft she learned from the internet. Each takes several hours to complete, including embellishing the frames with ornate golden decorations. But this is the easy bit.
Maria tells me the most difficult part is getting people to buy them off the streets of Quito, where she peddles them for about USD10 apiece. With modest profit margins, Maria must sell dozens to feed her family of four every month.
Meriem NAÏLI received her Masters from the Amsterdam School of Law in Public International Law and the Grenoble Law Faculty in International Legal Careers. Having both French and Algerian citizenships, she focused her legal studies on Human Rights and Refugees Rights and wrote a paper on the rights of asylum seekers under complementary international law when they are denied refugee status.
By Meriem NAÏLI
When the subject of “stateless refugees” arises, people often think first about Palestinian refugees. However, at least one other large group of such refugees exists: the Sahrawi refugees. The Sahrawi people originate from Western Sahara – a “non self-governing territory” controlled by Morocco, a matter of much international dispute. Sahrawi refugees fled violence over territorial control, to settle primarily in Algeria, as well as in Morocco and Mauritania.
This article will discuss access to safe, lawful employment for the Sahrawi people explaining why Sahrawi refugees remain mostly unemployed and reliant on humanitarian relief.
Asylum Access has just released a new report, No Place Called Home, presenting the findings of a 2010 survey of urban refugees living in Dar es Salaam. The aim of the study is to establish the existence of an urban population in Dar es Salaam with genuine claims to refugee status – and thus rights under Tanzanian and international law. In addition, Asylum Access sought to better understand the protection needs of this population, of which no official estimation exists.