February 1, 2016 — The international community must massively invest in the economies of countries neighbouring Syria to create conditions for a million Syrians to find work and support themselves, says the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC is asking world leaders to supply funds and support to enable widespread job creation in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
This call to focus on creating a million more jobs for Syrian refugees comes ahead of the high level conference on Syria taking place this week in London (Thursday 4 February). The IRC believes it is vital that one million new permits are made available as a first step towards wider job creation that benefits refugees as well as host communities.
This includes 200,000 work permits in Lebanon, 200,000 in Jordan and 600,000 in Turkey – broadly equivalent to one work permit for each refugee family in these countries.
In particular, in light of the ambitious proposed targets for educating Syrian refugee children, the IRC urges the conference participants to prioritise work permits for Syrian refugee teachers, many of whom are currently unable to work legally. The IRC also believes it is crucial to make sure that a good proportion of the work permits made available go to women refugees.
Host countries cannot do this alone. They need investment and support from outside the region in order to lift the legal and financial restrictions that are currently in place. Importantly, any investment should also help the local population. And the private sector is key here: A new IRC livelihoods assessment in Lebanon identified opportunities for business growth and job creation from within the country’s 225,000 small and medium businesses, by providing access to loans and grants as well as marketing and financial planning training.
David Miliband, CEO and President of the International Rescue Committee, said: “Life is getting harder and harder for Syrian refugees. Five years into the crisis, their savings are exhausted, they are struggling to get aid, and they are increasingly unable to support themselves and their families. We must do everything we can to lift the legal and financial barriers that prevent Syrian refugees from working. Syrian refugees deserve not just a life but a life worth living.”
Typically, Syrian refugees living in neighbouring countries need a residency permit before they can work legally. However, most refugees are unable to afford the prohibitive cost of this permit or the illegal fee requested by the local sponsor of their residency application.
The inability of Syrians to find legal work has left millions in poverty. The proportion of Syrian refugees living below the poverty line in 2015 was 69% and 64% in Jordan and Lebanon respectively. Many refugee families have resorted to sending their children to work on the black market to cover their daily expenses. Financial difficulties have left women and girls particularly at risk of being coerced into early forced marriage or survival sex.
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.