In 2016, the number of global refugees and displaced people hit an all-time high. European countries are struggling to absorb people displaced by conflicts across Africa and the Middle East as record numbers of people flee violence in Central America. The international systems in place for helping and coping with refugees are almost uniformly broken. They handicap both host countries and the displaced, leading to negative outcomes for all. But Alexander Betts, who heads Oxford University’s Refugee Studies Centre, has real solutions for host countries. His new book, “Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System,” presents the key factor: work.
Meeting the challenges of refugee management is always difficult for states. But Betts and his co-author Paul Collier contend that outcomes improve for both host countries and refugees when those refugees have access to labor markets. Work restrictions not only contribute to depression and dissatisfaction, but they erode refugees’ skills and aspirations, and leave them less able to rebuild their countries of origin. When host countries do allow displaced people to work: “A recent study commissioned by the Refugee Studies Centre in Oxford and conducted in Uganda – one of few nations that allows refugees to work – shows that they can make a contribution. In Kampala, the nation’s capital, 21% of refugees run a business that employs at least one other person; of those they employ, 40% are citizens of the host country.”
The “Refuge,” built upon the work that led Betts and Collier to both be named among Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2016, could change the lives of thousands of people around the world. To learn how Alexander Betts can bring his expertise to your organization, contact us.