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Access to work in Jordan & Lebanon for Syrian refugees, migrant workers & host populations

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29 January 2018

A WEF Call to Action: How CEOs Can Help Deliver Solutions for Refugees and Host Communities

Author: Cindy Huang, Center for Global Development

...One of the most promising entry points for global businesses is including refugees in hiring and supply chains. As employers and buyers at the helm of extensive supply chains that reach deep into local markets, global businesses can play an important role in creating demand for refugee labor, products, and services. Commitments to support refugees should take place in the context of broader policy and investment initiatives that also benefit local communities, which are often experiencing high unemployment, flat or falling incomes, and other vulnerabilities. A notable example is IKEA’s partnership with the Jordan River Foundation, employing Syrian refugees and Jordanians to make hand-woven rugs, textiles, and other products which will eventually be sold in IKEA stores everywhere. Also in Jordan, Airbnb has launched a livelihoods initiative where refugees can advertise services like tours and other local experiences... Giving refugees the right to own a business can also bring substantial benefits to host communities. A recent study found more than 10,000 Syrian-owned businesses in Turkey, each employing 9.4 people on average. And what’s more, Syrians have invested more than $330 million in the Turkish economy since 2011...

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22 January 2018

Where do we go now?

Author: Jeremy Arbid, Executive

...[L]abor participation among the over 1 million UNHCR-registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon is outright bad. According to 2017’s Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP), the ILO projected the size of the Syrian labor force in Lebanon at 384,000, and estimated that 36 percent were unemployed. The LCRP document also gives ILO figures showing that only 4 percent of Syrian workers reported to be working in Lebanon are skilled workers. Most Syrian refugee workers are employed in three sectors: agriculture (24 percent), services (27 percent), and construction (12 percent)... [T]he Lebanese economy is not generating enough jobs to absorb Lebanese workers into the labor force, not to mention Syrian refugees... [C]ompetition between Lebanese nationals and Syrian refugees for jobs that would classify a laborer as underemployed (being below their level of education or trade skill, for example) has exacerbated the labor market’s shortcomings, diminished earnings and household spending power, and has put relations between Lebanese and refugees on edge... Human Rights Watch researcher Bassam Khawaja told Executive in a November 2017 interview that nearly 70 percent of [Syrian refugees live] below the poverty line only $3.84 per day, and that while data is limited, “all the assessments are that things are getting worse instead of better”... 

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15 January 2018

As Jordan's garment sector grows, activists push for better migrant workers' rights

Author: Alisa Reznick, Middle East Eye (UK)

...Stretching across more than a square kilometre of arid desert in northern Jordan, Al Hassan is the largest of 18 special industrial zones churning out readymade garments and textiles for export. It is also home to the thousands of migrant workers behind the production... Textile and clothing exports were valued at $1.3bn in 2016, according to World Bank figures... Female migrant workers from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal still account for more than 75 percent of the garment workforce, according to ILO figures...Violations inside the zones placed Jordan on the US State Department's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor in 2009, a designation removed in 2016. Linda al-Kalash, who heads Jordanian migrant rights group Tamkeen for Fields of Aid, said her centre continues to document similar violations... In 2016, Tamkeen spearheaded a human trafficking case against two factories in Al Hassan for reports spanning abuse on the production floor, failure to pay salaries, seizure of passports and overcrowded living quarters...[In] 2010...the labour ministry rolled out regulations on overtime pay, recruitment fees and factory working conditions. Inside dorms, health officials introduced measures spanning fire safety, room capacities and food standards. But a lack of staff within the health ministry stalled monitoring...


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14 January 2018

Teaching coding to young refugees will generate job opportunities to thousands

Author: Rana Freifer, Wamda (UAE)

“Teaching refugees to code empowers everyone in the community...Including IT education in education programs for refugees equips thousands of young refugees with highly job-relevant skills for future employability and self-sufficiency,” Houssam Chahin, regional private sector partnerships manager for MENA at UNHCR told Wamda. By setting up and multiplying coding workshops and bootcamps for young people (aged 8 – 24) predominantly inside refugee camps, UNHCR’s Refugee Code Week is sustaining tangible and job relevant education interventions across the EMEA region...SAP, a market leader in enterprise application software, partnered with UNHCR and members of the civil society to implement the Refugee Code Week initiative. SAP held coding workshops for over 10,000 refugees in the region. Refugee Code Week focused on education as one of the options for self-sufficiency and future employability. On a more practical level, SAP’s Husseini explained that the most promising master class students have the opportunity to join a 16-week-long coding bootcamp, where they would emerge as top entry level computer engineers ready for employment locally, regionally, and internationally. “To date, more than 75 participants have found employment, with an average salary of $1,100 per month... 

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8 January 2018

Labour Ministry urged to implement ‘clear standards’ for expulsion of migrant workers

Author: Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto, The Jordan Times

A legal aid organisation based in Amman has urged the Ministry of Labour to implement “clear standards and mechanisms” for the expulsion of migrant workers after the arrest of 10,408 foreign labourers and the deportation of 6,558 of them over the past year, according to statistics issued by the ministry. “Tamkeen Fields for Aid recommends the Jordanian government to join the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families of 1990, to amend the national legislation accordingly, and for inspections of the working places of migrant workers to be increased,” the organisation stated [in] a press release... [T]he press release criticised [a decision] issued by the Minister of Labour preventing migrant workers from cancelling their work permits prior to the end of the work contract between them and the concerned employers, expressing that “it is an explicit violation of the right to work and the freedom of choice associated with it, and it also promotes forced labour as past experiences have clearly shown that some employers exploit workers in the name of the clearance”...

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2 January 2018

Berlin Spends Over €400bln on Scheme to Employ Refugees in Middle East

Author: Sputnik International

The German government has created almost 20,000 jobs this year in Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, as part of its "cash for work" scheme that aims to stem migration from the Middle East to Europe. The new employment brings the number of jobs created by the scheme to 80,000. The German government spent €230 billion...on its "cash for work" plan in 2017 and has set aside another €180 billion for the coming year, German Federal Development Minister Gerd Mueller announced...[S]ome 13,000 jobs have been created in the recycling and waste disposal industries in Jordan, where [recycling] and composting facilities have been set up. In Lebanon, 6,000 workers were hired through the scheme to renovate apartments, and 25,000 workers are expected to help clear debris from towns and villages devastated by war, and make roads and paths passable again...Germany has [also] paid for 12,000 voluntary teachers to be recruited to teach 260,000 children in refugee camps and community schools in Turkey, while some 165,000 children in Lebanon are attending school as a result of the scheme.

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13 December 2017

Can Jordan get a million Syrians into work?

Author: Daniel Howden, Hannah Patchett and Charlotte Alfred, The Guardian (UK)

...The Jerash Garments & Fashions Manufacturing Company, a factory with 2,800 employees, is run by Oryana Awaisheh, a Jordanian who...is among the pioneers trying to take up the opportunity of the Jordan compact...Awaisheh set out to hire refugees as soon as she heard it would give her factory access to EU markets without normal tariff barriers. But the deal is only open to businesses that can meet the requirement of having a 15% Syrian refugee workforce...[I]nitially...[i]t was difficult to convince the Syrians to work in factories, as they were often earning better money in other sectors such as construction or in restaurants, which required less commitment...Awaisheh spent two months visiting Zaatari, meeting women and attending job fairs. She invited refugees to tour the factory, set up a daycare centre and arranged transport. By November she had an all-female production line of 85 workers, including 19 women from Zaatari, and the factory qualified to export to Europe...Whether Awaisheh’s success can be replicated at scale remains to be seen. More than 80% of the estimated 1.3 million Syrians in Jordan live in towns not camps, and the minimum-wage jobs in the garment sector do not cover the needs of urban refugees with bills to pay...

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12 December 2017

In Jordan, an empowering solution for UN-run refugee camps

Author: Taylor Luck, The Christian Science Monitor

...In Jordan, the UN and its partners have hooked up the first solar-powered refugee camps in the world – a test as to whether the international aid community can step beyond the emergency relief approach and provide sustainable solutions that benefit refugees, host communities, and the environment long after each crisis ends...In May, the Azraq camp became the first solar-powered refugee camp in the world, with a 2.5 megawatt photovoltaic plant funded by the IKEA Foundation providing electricity to 20,000 refugees for the very first time. The UN is currently working on a project to expand the plant’s capacity to provide electricity to the entire camp by the end of the year. In November, Zaatari followed suit, with a 12.9 megawatt solar farm funded by the German government providing 14 hours of electricity per day to more than 80,000 Syrian refugees...The power plants have a lasting impact on Syrian refugees. The construction of the solar plants has employed more than 125 refugees, many of whom are staying on as full-time staff managing and maintaining the power stations...The projects also go far in helping the environment in the host county, Jordan. The Zaatari plant will cut carbon dioxide emissions from the camp by 13,000 tons per year – the equivalent to 30,000 barrels of oil – while the plant in Azraq brings a CO2 emissions savings of 2,370 tons...

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11 December 2017

UNHCR hosts Winter Bazaar to support refugees, disadvantaged communities

Author: Camille Dupire, Jordan Times

“Participating in this market helped me get exposure for my art, as not many people can come inside the camp to see it,” said Moayad, a 21-year-old Syrian artist who sold 10 of his paintings in the Winter Bazaar organised by UNHCR Jordan between December 5 and 7. Gathering refugees and refugee supporting initiatives from across Jordan, the bazaar aimed to “help refugees and their families go through the cold season by allowing them to get substantial money by selling their products”, according to Nida Yassin, UNHCR assistant external relations officer. Over 95 participants presented their handmade items in some 35 stalls that offered products as varied as clothes and textile items, jewellery, soaps, perfume, sweets, and Circassian cuisine, among others...

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23 November 2017

A Missed Opportunity: Employing Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Author: Shaddin Almasri, Al Bawaba

Following the Jordan Compact agreement in February 2016...Jordan pledged to create 200,000 work opportunities for Syrians in exchange for aid and an agreement that relaxes the EU's rules of origin for imports...According to the agreement, 52 Jordanian products are exempted from rules of origin stipulations on the condition that they are made up of at least 15 percent Syrian labor, and are manufactured in one of 18 special economic zones...While the Compact incentivizes employment in the manufacturing sector, Syrian refugees in Jordan are not skilled in this field...Despite the Compact's conditions, conversations with companies located in the industrial zones revealed that in the short run there is little incentive for many of them to hire Syrian refugees. One company reported that hiring Syrians subjects a company to additional levels of scrutiny from international organizations and government entities. Others reported low retention rates, with many of the hired refugees leaving the job within weeks. Considering the necessity for training, this represents a significant loss to company resources...Accessing the European market has had its complications. So far, only two have managed to export to Europe out of a total of eight companies that have received export license numbers under the Jordan Compact...

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