International conference anniversary: What's changed for Syrian refugees & their hosts in Jordan, Lebanon & Turkey?

On 4 February 2016, the Governments of the United Kingdom, Germany, Kuwait, Norway and the United Nations (UN) hosted an international conference in support of Syria and the broader region, in London.

The summit aimed to raise more resources and assistance to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of those affected by the Syrian crisis.  Donors pledged US$12 billion in new financing until 2020 plus US$40 million in new loans.  The World Bank negotiated significant concessional financing agreements with Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey known as ‘compacts’ with the objective to improve access to work and economic opporunities for Syrian refugees.

One year on, donors, civil society organisations and the media evaluate the progress of these compacts.  They highlight opportunities to seize and barriers that are yet to be overcome to create access to equal, fair and decent employment for Syrian refugees and host communities in the region.

Construction and agriculture of two of the few sectors in which Syrians can find work in Jordan.

(photo credit Al Fanar Media)

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Article
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Author: هيومن رايتس ووتش

لبنان: سياسة اللجوء الجديدة خطوة إلى الأمام، 14 فبراير 2017

قالت "هيومن رايتس ووتش" اليوم إن قرار إلغاء الرسوم الباهظة التي منعت العديد من السوريين من الحفاظ على وضع قانوني في لبنان هو خطوة إيجابية. لكن يبدو أن القرار يستبعد عددا من اللاجئين الأكثر عرضة للخطر. الإجراءات الجديدة، التي أعلن عنها الأمن العام الأسبوع الماضي، ستسقط رسم الإقامة السنوية البالغ 200 دولار عن اللاجئين السوريين في لبنان، شرط أن يكونوا قد سُجلوا لدى  "المفوضية السامية للأمم المتحدة لشؤون اللاجئين" (المفوضية) قبل 1 يناير/كانون الثاني 2015، أو حصلوا على الإقامة بناء على شهادة المفوضية مرة واحدة على الأقل عام 2015 أو 2016... يستثني القرار السوريين غير المسجلين لدى المفوضية، أي ما يقارب 500 ألف شخص وفقا لتقديرات الحكومة. في 6 مايو/أيار 2015، علقت المفوضية تسجيل اللاجئين السوريين في لبنان بناء على طلب من الحكومة اللبنانية... 

اعتمد لبنان شروط إقامة جديدة في يناير/كانون الثاني 2015، لم يستطع معظم اللاجئين استيفائها. دون تمتعهم بإقامة، يمكن  اعتقال اللاجئين وتقييد حركتهم. يصعّب عليهم ذلك العمل... أدى العجز عن العمل إلى تفاقم الفقر وسط اللاجئين، مما يؤدي إلى زيادة عمل الأطفال والزواج المبكر. انعدام الصفة القانونية ترك اللاجئين عرضة لمجموعة من الانتهاكات، منها الاستغلال في العمل، الانتهاكات الجنسية، والعجز عن اللجوء إلى السلطات لطلب الحماية خوفا من أن تعتقلهم الشرطة بسبب انتهاء صلاحية إقامتهم... وجدت هيومن رايتس ووتش أن مكاتب الأمن العام تطبق سياسات الإقامة بشكل غير متسق، بما في ذلك عن طريق الاشتراط على اللاجئين المسجلين لدى المفوضية الحصول على كفيل، وتوقيع السوريين على تعهد بعدم العمل حتى بعد إلغاء هذا الشرط في 2016.

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Article
13 March 2017

Turkey: How do Syrian refugee workers challenge supply chain management in garment industry?

Author: Emre Eren Korkmaz, International Migration Institute, University of Oxford

"How do Syrian refugee workers challenge supply chain management in the Turkish garment industry?"

[...] In this paper, a general picture of the employment of Syrian refugees in Turkey will be provided...it is important to understand the relations between the informal and formal sectors in Turkey and how such relations have affected the survival strategies of Syrian refugees...one should analyse how the participation of Syrian refugees in the informal economy has changed these historical relations between formal and informal employment in the Turkish textile-apparel sector. Rather than solely objectifying refugees as a vulnerable group, paying attention to their contribution to industrial relations is crucial in order to acknowledge refugees as active agents capable of changing their lives and the structures within which they operate. Syrian refugees follow a survival strategy based on their social networks that also affects and changes the living and working conditions of local people, as well as existing labour relations...The aim of this paper is to clarify the reasons behind the low level of applications for work permits from Syrian refugees residing in Turkey in 2016...[and] to understand the factors that lead to an unwillingness of behalf of employers to legally employ Syrian refugees.[...]

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Article
27 February 2017

Jordan and Lebanon: Syrians face significant legal obstacles and discrimination in accessing the job market

Author: Rasha Faek, Al-Fanar Media

Little Hope of Jobs for Syrians in Lebanon and Jordan, 25 February 2017

In Lebanon, Majd Yassin, a 29-year old Syrian with a master’s degree in education from the University of Damascus, managed to find a job two years ago at an international organization concerned with refugee affairs. But she has to work as a volunteer on a temporary contract, getting only a small stipend for her efforts, because the organization has not been able to secure a permit for her. Just to be able to continue to legally live in Lebanon, Yassin was forced to enroll in a university, so that she could get a student residence permit. “This is the only possible residence permit in Lebanon today,” she said. “Work permits can’t be obtained, for they require a Lebanese sponsor and the payment of a large sum of money.” The sponsor has to pay the government to get the work permit, and few Lebanese companies want to take on this difficult, bureaucratic and expensive task. In addition, the aspiring Syrian worker is often forced to make a hefty “under-the-table” payment to the company to secure one … In Jordan, work laws bar foreigners, including Syrians, from working in many professions. The professions in which foreigners can work include construction and agriculture.  Meanwhile, the law lists 18 other fields that cannot be pursued by non-Jordanians, including such jobs as working in a warehouse, in a gas station or as a secretary.

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Report
27 February 2017

Jordan: NGO evaluation reveals weaknesses of international assistance programme to improve economic opportunities for refugees & vulnerable Jordanians

Author: International Rescue Committee

"In Search of Work - Creating Jobs for Syrian Refugees: A Case Study of the Jordan Compact", 22 Feb 2017

...Progress towards improving economic opportunities for refugees and vulnerable Jordanians through implementing the Jordan Compact has been slow and uneven. The Compact is a new type of partnership which perhaps helps to explain some of this. It reflects, in part, the economic, social and structural challenges in the Jordanian context, such as high unemployment rates and a poor investment climate. Importantly, it also reveals weaknesses in the Compact’s design and management as well as opportunities for how the Compact can better recognise the reality of constraints and facts on the ground, including refugees’ experiences with the work permit and business formalisation processes and the specific vulnerabilities women face in search of safe and decent work...

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Article
27 February 2017

Turkey: Positive steps to facilitate access to decent work to Syrian refugees, but reality still challenging

Author: Rasha Faek, Al-Fanar Media

Turkey Sends Mixed Signals to Syrian Job Seekers, 25 February 2017

A year ago, the Turkish government said it would give work permits to Syrians in the country. But the majority of Syrians are still unemployed, despite an expanding Turkish economy… Turkey is among of the world’s most sympathetic countries to Syrians; it has received more than 2,854,968 Syrian refugees, according to the latest statistics from the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)... On January 15, 2016, the government began allowing Syrians who had been registered for at least six months with Turkey’s labor protection system to work in the city where their document was issued… The law forbids paying Syrian workers less than the minimum annual salary for Turks, and requires employers to provide their Syrian employees with the same employee benefits as Turkish ones. That requirement is in contrast to where Syrians usually do not get the same benefits as citizens.

Despite these favorable conditions, Ayham and many other Syrians work illegally in Turkey, and the reality they face is very different from the one envisioned by Turkish law…the majority of the Syrians [Ayham] knows work long hours at wages less than the official monthly minimum wage – which is about 1,200 Turkish lira ($325). In many cases, employers will withhold the wages of Syrians or pay them irregularly, multiple sources told Al-Fanar Media. Syrians are afraid to go to the police to file a complaint because they work illegally. The first-time fine for illegal work is 600 Turkish lira ($163) and must be paid by the employer, according to the law.

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Report
23 February 2017

Jordan: UNHCR compact 1 year on - challenges for access to school & work for Syrian refugees remain

Author: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

"UNHCR consultations with refugees – The Jordan Compact, one year later, Understanding main challenges, analysis of the group discussions", 29 Jan 2017

...consultations with refugee leaders and active members of the CSCs (Community Support Committees) were organized by UNHCR Amman to discuss education and livelihoods over the last year, priorities in the Jordan compact...The difficult economic situation of families was mentioned by all groups as main obstacle to school attendance; the distance of school and lack of transport...Lack of documentation prevents access to school...Refugee community leaders discussed the lack of information about available jobs. There are no opportunities for well-educated refugees, nor possibility to regularize jobs in higher professions (doctors and other professionals). The fact that work permits are attached to a job/contract is not conducive for daily/seasonal jobs (in which many refugees are engaged) and discourages formalization; minimum salary jobs (190 JDs) and long working days are not attractive as it does not leave time for occasional (daily or seasonal) jobs. In addition, it is difficult to change job, especially for those who work in factories, as a new job requires to start the work permit procedure all over again...All groups asked for flexible solutions that would give more opportunities to work – rather than limiting opportunities for regularized work - both in terms of types of occupation as well as in terms of allowing freelance, self-employed work. Work permits should not be tied to an employer but rather to the person, based on certifiable skills... All groups asked for flexible solutions that would give more opportunities to work – rather than limiting opportunities for regularized work - both in terms of types of occupation as well as in terms of allowing freelance, self-employed work. Work permits should not be tied to an employer but rather to the person, based on certifiable skills...

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