Helping Refugees Rebuild Their Lives in Host Countries
Yamama Mousa and her family fled the war in Syria to neighboring Jordan in 2013 leaving their livelihood and all their possessions behind. Like millions of refugees around the world, they had to rely on aid agencies to survive. Today, the 29-year-old works at a high-end spa in Amman and hopes to have her own business in the future.
“For three years after arriving in Jordan I had nothing. No aim in life, no dream, no education and no job,” Mousa said. “I had a passion for beauty care which I was able to develop and cultivate, thanks to the training offered by Education for Employment. It helped me build self-confidence and rebuild my life.”
Education for Employment is a nongovernmental organization that trains youth and links them to jobs across the Middle East and North Africa. (See a related article, “Little Hope of Jobs for Syrians in Lebanon and Jordan.”)
After receiving a two-month course specializing in nail care, Moussa found a job with the organization’s help.
“I could never hope for a better workplace,” she said at a webinar titled “More Than a Refugee” organized by Education for Employment to mark World Refugee Day. “I received many benefits, including a work permit, social security coverage and medical insurance. I will continue working in this field which I really love and I hope to be able to open my own venture in the future.”
UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, recently estimated that at least 80 million people around the world have been displaced from their homes, the highest number in recorded history. Nearly 26.4 million have fled to other countries, half of whom are under the age of 18.
The Right to Work
Ahmad Awad, a speaker at the webinar and founder of the Phenix Center for Economic & Informatics Studies, underlined the economic benefits that host countries can gain by relaxing employment restrictions to enable refugees to become self-reliant in protracted refugee crises.
“There is no country in the world that does not host refugees or migrants,” Awad said. “It is a humanitarian issue and a reality that we should deal with by taking into consideration refugees’ rights, and one of the most important rights is the right to work.”
While each host country has its own policy and experience in dealing with refugees, Germany has proved to be the most successful in turning the refugee crisis into an opportunity, Awad said.
“Refugees were rehabilitated in the sense that they were given the opportunity to build their capacities, the knowledge and the skills needed in the German labor market,” and contribute to increasing Germany’s economy, he said
“I had a passion for beauty care which I was able to develop and cultivate, thanks to the training offered by Education for Employment. It helped me build self-confidence and rebuild my life.”Yamama Mousa
A Syrian refugee in Jordan
Restrictive laws and policies in some countries, including Jordan and Lebanon, which both host large Syrian and Palestinian communities, have limited refugees’ ability to find employment.
To make matters worse, the Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide curfews have meant that many refugees, often operating in informal sectors, lost work opportunities and were unable to earn enough to support their families. (See a related article, “Job Creation Efforts in the Middle East Hit a New Snag: Covid-19.”)
Awad stressed that national policy reforms must be implemented to address the legal barriers refugees face in accessing jobs and business opportunities.
“The existence of employment restrictions does not mean that the refugees will not seek jobs in an informal way,” he said, noting that an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Syrian refugees work in the informal sector in Jordan. (See a related article, “Syrian Refugees Are Often Steered Into Illegal Jobs.”)
Benefits of Legal Jobs for Refugees
“In order to maximize the benefits for the refugees as well as the national economies of host countries, governments should formalize their work,” Awad said. “As such, refugees would be paying taxes and getting employment benefits including social security and medical care coverage in return.”
Rabea al Hajj Hassan, technical advisor with GIZ, the German agency for international cooperation and development, said the group’s programs are focused on enhancing “employment-oriented vocational training.”
“Through this initiative we are aiming to support Syrian refugees as well as Jordanian youth to improve their employability skills and be part of the labor market,” she said.
“The existence of employment restrictions does not mean that the refugees will not seek jobs in an informal way.”Ahmad Awad
Founder of the Phenix Center for Economic & Informatics Studies
GIZ in cooperation with Education for Employment launched a public campaign last year to encourage Jordanian youth and Syrian refugees to enter vocational jobs after labor market analysis identified high demand in the skilled craft sector, including carpentry, weaving and blacksmithing, she added.
Meanwhile, Education for Employment has worked with some 2,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan since 2017 providing them with job training and placement.
Mohamad Nour, one of the trainees, was only 15 when his family was forced to abandon their home in Syria and seek refuge in Jordan in 2014.
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“I had no real direction on how to start my life. My family’s financial challenges made continuing my education difficult and Jordan’s highly competitive labor market made finding a job extremely hard,” Nour said in a video clip presented at the webinar.
After a year of trying to find employment, he joined the training program of Education for Employment which helped him gain tangible skills and a sustainable job with a steady income. He has been assistant chef at a posh Chinese restaurant in Amman for three years now, and is planning to pursue an education in journalism.
“My future is full of hope and aspiration. Dreams are not impossible and with a little bit of hard work and determination one can become the captain of his own destiny,” he said.