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MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration Launches Series of Reports Focused on Innovative Solutions to Record Global Humanitarian Crisis

Press Release
Thursday, September 15, 2016

MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration Launches Series of Reports Focused on Innovative Solutions to Record Global Humanitarian Crisis

WASHINGTON — As world leaders prepare to head to New York for the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants on Monday, followed by a Leaders’ Summit on Refugees hosted by President Obama on Tuesday, the Migration Policy Institute’s Transatlantic Council on Migration today launched a series of research reports focused on new and emerging strategies to respond to record displacement levels.

With huge displacement from Syria, protracted refugee situations in sub-Saharan Africa, long-term ongoing conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thousands of would-be asylum seekers and migrants dying in the Mediterranean while seeking refuge in Europe, the international community, humanitarian aid agencies and governments in countries of first asylum and hoped-for destination alike require new approaches to respond to these major challenges.

Most refugee situations are not resolved quickly, and can instead stretch over years or even decades, making it more important than ever to ensure that those displaced have meaningful access to livelihoods and economic opportunities in countries of first asylum. Doing so could reduce the staggering financial burden on aid agencies, countries of first asylum and donor governments, while helping refugees improve their lives and find long-term solutions to their displacement.

Still, despite the growing interest in and resources devoted to livelihood programs, as yet there is “little concrete evidence that current strategies are successfully meeting their goals of fostering self-reliance and durable solutions,” authors Karen Jacobsen and Susan Fratzke write in a new Transatlantic Council report. “In general, there is a lack of independent evaluations, hard data and external assessments of most livelihood programs.”

The report, Building Livelihood Opportunities for Refugee Populations: Lessons from Past Practice, examines the experiences of the growing number of refugee economic self-sufficiency programs, and the knowledge that can be gained from their successes and failures. These programs are generally divided into “supply-side” strategies (such as skills-building programs that aim to boost refugee employability or facilitate entrepreneurship) and “demand-side” strategies (initiatives to create work opportunities or connect refugees with employers).

The report examines the barriers that many refugees face to getting legal status or work permits in first-asylum countries, political challenges, lack of coordination between involved partners in livelihood programs and the newness of these endeavors for involved staff. The authors offer a range of recommendations that international agencies, donor governments and implementing partners can take to improve programming.

“First, donors and international agencies should conduct market, political and policy mapping of the local context before investing, and ensure that programming is designed on the basis of these findings,” the authors conclude. “Second, donor governments could pair livelihood assistance with diplomatic advocacy to promote host-country policies that grant refugees the right to work. And finally, implementing agencies and partners should prioritize the knowledge of refugees, host communities and local actors, who are best placed to understand local needs and opportunities.”

The report launches a series from the Transatlantic Council, to be published over the coming weeks, that focuses on innovative solutions to respond to the unprecedented global humanitarian crisis, both for individuals fleeing persecution and for overburdened host communities. The series also examines promising practices to promote the longer-term social and economic inclusion of refugees.

For more on the Council’s work, including a recent series on restoring public trust in government’s ability to manage migration, visit: www.migrationpolicy.org/transatlantic.

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The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, DC dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. MPI’s Transatlantic Council on Migration is a unique deliberative body that examines vital policy issues and informs migration policymaking processes across the Atlantic community.