Ann Hollingsworth

ECRE: The reality of legal employment to refugees in Turkey: lack of access and discrimination

The NGO Refugees International has published a report entitled “I Am Only Looking for My Rights: Legal Employment Still Inaccessible to Refugees in Turkey”. Through a field research, refugees’ testimonies and an analysis of the applicable legal and policy provisions, the report examines the challenges and consequences that refugees face when they seek employment in Turkey.

The report explains how Turkish law, despite granting refugees and temporary protection beneficiaries the right to work, establishes a number of practical obstacles to accessing legal employment in practice. As a consequence, refugees become trapped in a cycle of informal work where the risk of exploitation and abuse is high and wages are low. Refugees in Turkey reported working excessively long hours often in difficult working conditions and being paid a faction of their Turkish counterparts. The lack of decent wages for adult refugees pushes many refugee children into the job market as well, instead of attending school. According to the report, 41% of all Syrian children in Turkey do not go to school.

Discrimination is also a key obstacle for refugees when looking for a job. Refugees often face a climate of hostility and negative myths about the impact of refugees on Turkish society. Moreover, the report highlights that since employers must pay a work permit fee of 537 Turkish Liras (118€) in order to employ a refugee, they are often reluctant to do so.

The ability to engage in decent work is a fundamental human right, integral to human dignity and self-respect. Failure to ensure proper access to the labour market hinders the ability of a beneficiary of international protection to successfully integrate into their new society, and leaves them at risk of destitution.

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Legal Employment Still Inaccessible to Refugees in Turkey

Legal Employment Still Inaccessible to Refugees in Turkey

A new Refugees International report details that, while refugees may seek employment under Turkish law, legal jobs are largely inaccessible for the vast majority of refugees in Turkey. The study, “I Am Only Looking for My Rights”: Legal Employment Still Inaccessible to Refugees in Turkey, finds that without legal employment, refugees become trapped in a cycle of informal work where the risk of exploitation and abuse is high and wages are low. Refugees in Turkey face enormous

The Horror in Syria Continues

The Horror in Syria Continues

In October, a Refugees International (RI) colleague and I traveled to Turkey to revisit the issue of work permits and livelihood access for the 3.5 million refugees now living there – 3.2 million of whom are Syrians. As in previous missions, we interviewed Syrian refugees who had recently fled their war-torn homeland. 

Impact of Proposed U.S. Funding Cuts on Refugees

Impact of Proposed U.S. Funding Cuts on Refugees

The only response to World Refugee Day 2017 is urgent action, as we face proposed Trump administration funding cuts of 32 percent to the international affairs budget. Such drastic slashes to humanitarian and development assistance as well as peacekeeping and international organizations at this time of unprecedented global need is incomprehensible. Should these cuts be implemented, the impacts on the most vulnerable populations will be devastating and, unfortunately, deadly. 

Haiti Following Hurricane Matthew: A Rough Road Ahead

Haiti Following Hurricane Matthew: A Rough Road Ahead

In early October 2016, the Southwest region of Haiti was devastated by Hurricane Matthew, a category four storm. Tragically, the areas it hit were among the poorest. The government reported more than 2.1 million people were affected by the hurricane, with 800,000 in need of urgent food assistance. While four months have passed since Matthew hit, conditions on the ground are not much different today.  Haiti faces a long road ahead.

From Bad to Worse: Deepening Impacts of Zimbabwe's Drought

From Bad to Worse: Deepening Impacts of Zimbabwe's Drought

At present, Zimbabwe’s future appears precariously poised on an edge. Two consecutive years of poor rains, compounded by El Niño, have resulted in the worst drought in 35 years. It is estimated that more than four million people will require emergency humanitarian aid to get them through to the end of the lean season in March 2017. Exacerbating the situation is the regional nature of the drought, along with an economic crisis, a shortage of cash, and growing political tensions. 

IRIN: Sudanese refugees in Chad must adapt or starve

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Sudanese refugees in Chad must adapt or starve
How the needs of more than 300,000 Darfuris are neglected by the aid system

By Mahamat Adamou
IRIN Contributor

GOZ BEIDA, 9 June 2016

 The Darfur conflict fell out of the headlines years ago, but more than 300,000 Sudanese are still living as refugees in neighbouring Chad, a country with its own problems of poverty, climate change, and insecurity. As humanitarian aid has dried up, how are they surviving in this harsh, arid setting?

At first sight, nothing distinguishes Djabal refugee camp from surrounding towns and villages, except perhaps the billboards along the main road promoting various international aid organisations. This sprawling settlement of huts near the town of Goz Beida in eastern Chad’s Sila Region is home to some 20,000 Sudanese who fled war-ravaged West Darfur in the early 2000s.

The camp’s marketplace is as busy and colourful as any local market. Vegetable stalls offer tomatoes, carrots and onions, and butchers slice and hack at pieces of fresh meat displayed on wooden table tops.  Across the street, barbers attend to their customers in a makeshift shop, and a teenager behind a laptop offers to download pirated songs. He also sells petrol in plastic bottles, cigarettes, mobile phone credits, and can recharge a mobile phone battery for a modest fee.

However, beneath this veneer of normalcy is a protracted displacement crisis that the humanitarian aid system seems to have forgotten about as it deals with more pressing emergencies.

The refugees of Djabal represent just a fraction of the 304,650 Darfur refugees living in eastern Chad (in the south, the country hosts another 74,000 refugees from Central African Republic and Nigeria). Sila Region alone hosts 62,000 refugees, in three camps – Djabal, Goz Amir, and Kirfi – that have been running for more than a decade.

Jenada Boldadet, a local prefect dressed in a traditional white robe, said the camps are putting a huge strain on this poor, sparsely populated region. He gave IRIN an avalanche of figures and statistics to explain the impact the refugees have had. For example, he said Goz Beida’s water supply system, designed to cater for 7,000 people in the regional capital, has struggled to cope with the additional demand.

Hard choices

The aid agencies providing for most of the refugees’ basic needs over the past 12 years have challenges of their own. With dwindling funding available from donors preoccupied by newer emergencies, they have had to take tough decisions.

By the end of April, UN refugee agency (UNHCR) operations in Chad were only 16 percent-funded for the year. Lack of funds has forced the World Food Programme to cut monthly food rations by as much as 60 percent since 2014. Food is now distributed based on four categories of need, ranging from the very needy to the relatively well-off. The very poor receive 70 percent of the previous full ration of 2,100 calories a day, while the less needy receive only 40 percent of a full ration. More cuts to these already meagre rations may be on the way.

Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s country director for Chad, told IRIN that the agency was in urgent need of $17 million for its refugee assistance programmes in the country. “WFP needs to pre-position large quantities of food stocks for the refugees in advance of the rainy season as many of the refugee camps become inaccessible for trucks from June onwards,” she said. “WFP faces significant funding shortfalls to complete this exercise.”

With little prospect of refugees being able to return to Sudan anytime soon and funding drying up, UNHCR and its partners have little choice but to push the refugees towards being largely self-reliant.

“The way UNHCR and partners have been delivering assistance has entrenched a dependency mentality that we need to work on now if we’re going to give them the capacity to fend for themselves and be self-sustaining,” the UN agency’s representative in Chad, Antonio Canhandula, told IRIN.

He added that the task was not made easier by the region’s arid environment and the struggles that even local people face in finding livelihoods.

Adapting to survive

Last July, Refugees International released a report that was highly critical of the aid system’s lack of support for Sudanese refugees in Chad to move towards self-sufficiency and local integration.

“It is unrealistic to expect refugees to become self-sufficient in a place where livelihood opportunities are hard to find, government services are limited, cost of living is high, host community tensions are increasing, and most crucially, little development funding exists,” wrote the authors.

A year later, there is evidence that some of the refugees, eager to improve their living conditions, are making their own way. Those with personal contacts in nearby villages have persuaded traditional chiefs to grant them land to cultivate. The village of Koutoufou for example, offered some refugees from Djabal parcels of arable land for farming.

Starting in 2014, refugees and villagers organised themselves into a farming association, or “groupement”, which receives funding from UNHCR in partnership with the Lutheran World Federation. LWF provides agriculture kits – seeds, farming tools, water pumping generators and fences – as well as technical assistance. The project is boosting the income of the villagers and helping refugees integrate into the local community.

Koutoufou, which had just 60 inhabitants before, has seen its population more than double with the arrival of the refugees. “We are much better today,” said Mahamat Zene Youssouf, a villager whose annual income has soared since joining the association, from around 15,000 CFA francs ($26) to about 75,000 ($130).

Thinking long-term

Sidikh Djimet Idriss, 25, who arrived at Djabal camp when he was just 13, joined the association two years ago. Since then, he has married and had a child. He told IRIN he worries less about his own future than about how he’ll ensure his child gets the education he didn’t. His hope is to attend a vocational training school like the one set up by LWF in Djabal.

In operation since 2006, the centre has trained around 2,000 refugees and local Chadians in trades ranging from construction, carpentry, soldering, mechanics and electricity, to agriculture. The course initially lasted nine months but has had to be reduced to six due to funding shortages, explained Khamis Barka, head of the training centre.

But such initiatives are only benefitting a minority of the refugees. Others compete for occasional casual work in Goz Beida and surrounding villages. Job opportunities are few and far between in this drought-prone region, where many of the local Chadians are themselves in need of food assistance.

Abdallah Djouma, 58, lives at Djabal camp with his wife and four children. He earns a few dollars a day reselling goods he buys from traders at local markets. He also farms a small plot of land. “Last year was bad,” he told IRIN. “We didn’t have sufficient rain.”

“I am not an idle man,” he added. “I always manage to get extra revenue to take care of our basic needs.”

Without that extra income, the family would not survive. “The reduced rations are far from sufficient to cover our everyday needs,” he said.

The reality is that aid agencies like UNHCR cannot provide for the refugees’ needs in the long term. “People see us as a development body, but we are just an emergency aid agency,” commented Peggy Pentshi-a-Maneng, head of UNHCR operations in Goz Beida. 

After 12 years, the Darfur refugees can no longer be considered as an emergency case, said Canhandula, the UNHCR country head, adding that they should be seen as part of the broader development challenges facing their host country. “I think more attention needs to be paid… to what 400,000 refugees represent to the government of Chad, because it’s a country that’s quite poor, where the standards of living, health, water, and education are very low.

“There should be solidarity with the government of Chad.” 


Planting the Seeds of Success? Turkey's New Refugee Work Permits

Planting the Seeds of Success? Turkey's New Refugee Work Permits

Turkey’s December 2015 announcement of a work permit option for registered Syrian refugees is a momentous step, with support expressed by the United Nations, international non-governmental organizations, and donor governments alike. The decision is indeed encouraging both for ensuring refugees’ rights are respected and for promoting self-sufficiency. The implementation process for the work permits is just beginning, and while the new policy has promise, there are also potential obstacles and warning signs in the process as it appears on paper. 

Next Steps for Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Next Steps for Syrian Refugees in Turkey

Turkey now hosts the largest population of Syrian refugees with 2.5 million registered. After two years of debate about whether Syrian refugees in Turkey should be eligible for work permits, the Turkish government has stated that some Syrians will be offered permission to work. The details are significant: Syrian refugees must be registered, must have been in the country for at least six months, and must apply for the permit in the province where they first registered, among other conditions. 


Malaysia: Rohingya Refugees Hope for Little and Receive Less

Malaysia: Rohingya Refugees Hope for Little and Receive Less

It’s been six months since as many as 1,000 Rohingya fleeing from Myanmar died in the Andaman Sea. And still, neighboring nations remain resistant to recognizing the Rohingya people’s rights as refugees. Even after neighboring governments met earlier this year and agreed to protect the Rohingya at sea, no nation has taken a leadership role in permitting them to disembark from boats safely and legally. The absence of a regional plan leaves the Rohingya vulnerable to the challenges of a perilous sea voyage, and further strands those Rohingya who have lived in Malaysia and other regional nations for up to three generations without legal rights or protection. 

A Return to Malaysia

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Earlier this year, the world watched in both horror and sadness as thousands of desperate Rohingya who had fled persecution in Myanmar were abandoned on boats without food or water. As countless numbers died of dehydration and starvation each day, neighboring countries quarreled over who should take them in and how limited their assistance would be. Finally, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to accept up to 7,000 Rohingya, but only on the condition that they would be resettled out of their countries within a year.

Sudanese Refugees in Chad: Passing the Baton to No One

Sudanese Refugees in Chad: Passing the Baton to No One

More than ten years after first arriving in Chad, over 360,000 Sudanese refugees are now dealing with a new reality. In the face of dramatic food ration cuts, and after years of shrinking support from the international community, aid agencies are pushing these refugees to become self-sufficient and more deeply integrated with their Chadian hosts. With the global humanitarian system overstretched, a more sustainable and targeted assistance strategy for this population would seem reasonable. But the early stages of this transition have encountered serious problems.

The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Request: Humanitarian and Peacekeeping Accounts

The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Request: Humanitarian and Peacekeeping Accounts

With so many humanitarian crises around the world, priority humanitarian and peacekeeping accounts need increased support from Congress now more than ever. This includes the Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) and the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) humanitarian accounts, along with the core peacekeeping accounts including Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) and Contributions for International Peacekeeping (CIPA).