FY 11: Refugee Livelihoods in Urban Areas: Identifying Program Opportunities (Tufts University, Feinstein International Center)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
March 29, 2013

For the full report, go to: http://sites.tufts.edu/feinstein/2013/refugee-livelihoods-in-urban-areas-identifying-program-opportunities-4

Project Overview and Key Findings

In order to further develop the evidence base concerning best practices in livelihood promotion with urban refugees, PRM funded Tufts University to collect and analyze refugee livelihoods data in Quito, Cairo, and Tel Aviv. The research focused on the effectiveness of humanitarian livelihood programming and on the livelihood initiatives refugees develop themselves. The study consisted of a desk review as well as interviews with refugees, asylum seekers, and key informants. Results of this study will help shape both humanitarian programming and diplomacy concerning access to livelihoods for urban refugees. Some key findings include:


• Refugees, most of whom are Colombian, are stigmatized by local communities and xenophobia is rampant. Colombian women often face sexual harassment and pressure to engage in sex work; and

• Ecuador’s constitution promises basic rights to refugees, yet there is a backlog of 35,000 asylum cases. This backlog leads to protection gaps as refugees generally do not have access to their rights until they have been granted refugees status.


• Current refugee support is inadequate and there is no coordinated strategy to promote livelihoods or improve the financial security of refugees. Further, the January 2011 revolution has resulted in increased uncertainty and insecurity, often leading to harassment of refugees; and

• Employment opportunities for refugees depend on gender, age, ethnicity, and the community they reside in. For instance, Iraqis tend to be more educated than Somalis.

Tel Aviv

• Refugees in Tel Aviv (largely Eritreans, Sudanese, or other Africans) have limited access to poverty alleviation and livelihood programs. Many engage in the same work they did before fleeing but a high proportion end up taking lower skilled jobs.

• The services that support asylum seekers are underutilized, tend to not have long-term staff members, and are largely supported by volunteers


• Humanitarian actors should shift programming from a social protection and charity model to one of promoting self-reliance, including access to formal livelihoods;

• Livelihoods programming will be most effective when it targets both refugees and the urban poor. This will help overcome host governmental resistance to allowing refugees to work in the formal economy. Further, refugees will be empowered by developing networks with hosts;

• Conflicting messages currently undermine advocacy campaigns. International organization and local/international non-governmental organizations must adopt a common strategy for engaging governments on livelihoods related issues;

• Livelihood programming should take into consideration the diversity of the population served, and interventions should be tailored to their skill sets. Further, youth programming should integrate traditional education, financial literacy, entrepreneurship and health education; and

• Livelihood programs will be more effective when linked and integrated along the value chain, with a focus on transferable skills. For example, language and literacy classes could be linked to job placement programs, which could be supported by subsidizing employment of refugees through incentives to employers. Refugees graduating from a vocational training course with a specific skill set and wanting to start their own business could be provided an apprenticeship, with eventual microcredit support upon completion.