Livelihood Solutions for Refugees

Pradeep Kumar Panda

World Refugee Day falls on 20 June. The day was created in the year 2000 by a special United Nations General Assembly Resolution. The lead international agency coordinating refugee protection is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely. Such a person may be called an asylum seeker until granted refugee status by the contracting state or the UNHCR if they formally make a claim for asylum. As of 2015, total refugee population is 21.3 million.

The estimated population of refugees in India is approximately 36,000 of which about 19,000 are residing in New Delhi (UNHCR). They are from all nationalities including Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cameroon, China, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Maldives, Myanmar – Chin, Myanmar – Rohingya, Pakistan, Palestine, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

Every day around 34,000 people expatriate from their native countries, owing to a well-founded fear of persecution. Political instabilities often lead to discord which alters the social, economic, cultural trajectories of a country.

Through the interventions of UNHCR the displaced people get asylum and work on establishing themselves in their allotted places to build a better future. India is one such country of asylum giver, wherein the government, UN and its partners work to keep abreast of providing necessary support to the people. India has directly assisted and protected the natives of Tibet and Sri Lanka and has also hosted many asylum seekers.

Although India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, it is a member of various committees of UNHCR, which enables them to have access to government services such as education, health, birth registrations. Simultaneously, through a continual process of advocacy, UNHCR has started linking the refugees and the asylum seekers with Long Term Visas (LTVs) and Aadhaar Cards.

Further to a recent development in 2015, 3 Members of the Parliament had submitted proposals for the enactment of refugee legislation in India. Amidst the opportunities, the refugees continuously face trade-offs and strive to survive the challenges they face in a new environment. One such major challenge is confronted by them while exploring the Indian market for employment.

Owing to the challenge that the refugees face in India, there is need of intervention on improving on the aspect of livelihood opportunities for them through skill based trainings, job assistance and micro-entrepreneurial support.

Refugees and asylum seekers, depending on their socio-economic and historical backgrounds, have several problems and viewpoints concerning their economic self-sufficiency. Albeit willingness in earning a livelihood, they intend to consider some parameters to be a major trade-off which has been understood to be detrimental in the career growth of the refugees.

From the organizational point of view, lower retention rate and inabilities to understand organizational policies have been some of the concerns which affect the procedure of placement, resulting in economic vulnerabilities. However, from the refugees’ point of view, factors such as inability to travel long distance, relatively meagre salary have been a major cause of their demotivation. Such factors have been commonly seen in all refugeesliving in India.

Displacement is a long lasting reality for most refugees. Two-thirds of all refugees around the world have been displaced for over three years, which is known as being in ‘protracted displacement’. 50 per cent of refugees – around 10 million people – have been displaced for over ten years.

The Overseas Development Institute has found that aid programmes for refugees need to move from short-term models of assistance (such as food or cash handouts) to more sustainable long-term programmes to make them more self-reliant. This can involve tackling difficult legal and economic environments, by improving social services, job opportunities and laws.

Refugees have a slightly higher percentage of self-rated poor health (42 per cent) as compared to other immigrants (39 per cent), with a wider gap relative to comparable non-immigrant populations (18 per cent-WHO)

These Persons of Concern require livelihood solution along with access to health, education, employment along with better standard of living. Livelihood can be provided through regular counselling, training, placement, enterprise, and market linkage.

Access to training and learning enabled, including counselling & outreach activities, training on life skills and financial literacy skills, Access to Vocational training, including training on technical skills and functional literacy, Access to wage earning employment facilitated, including providing placements and apprenticeship opportunities and Access to self-employment, including trainings on entrepreneurship, facilitating set up of small businesses and providing market linkage opportunities are the way forward in providing livelihood solutions to refugees.

Pradeep Kumar Panda is a manager at Access Development Services, New Delhi. He can be reached at











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