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.
Access to formal employment will soon be a reality for thousands of refugees in east Sudan. Last Thursday, UNHCR announced the government’s decision to issue approximately 30,000 work permits to refugees in Sudan’s Kassala state. For the estimated 80,000 refugees in the region, the provision of work permits means an opportunity to formally contribute to the Sudanese economy and engage in regulated employment.
The change of policy has largely come about through the work of the Transitional Solutions Initiative (TSI), a joint program between UNHCR, UNDP, the World Bank and the Government of Sudan, which has sought to provide a framework for transitioning displacement situations in Sudan to durable solutions. Through the collaboration of the development, refugee and government actors, the TSI project is geared towards increasing refugees’ opportunity for self-sufficiency. Expanding livelihood opportunities has been prioritized as a critical objective to achieve this end.
The program represents a refreshing approach to protracted refugee situations, responding to displacement not just through the provision of humanitarian aid, but rather with a long-term development strategy in mind. The TSI Concept Note states:
“Notwithstanding the political and security dimensions, the perception that displacement challenges can only be addressed by humanitarian means is ill-conceived which has either impeded or delayed in achieving the sustainability of solutions or resulted in protracted displacements finding difficulties to break from the cycle of dependence on humanitarian assistance and to move on with their lives and livelihoods.”