In most nations, refugees and asylum-seekers are prohibited from working. Where people fear that refugees will take jobs away from “hardworking citizens,” politicians have simply made laws that keep refugees from competing for jobs. Refugees simply aren’t allowed to work. And since refugees can’t vote, it’s a political win for legislators.  The economics of such policies, however, are suspect.

We saw this tension firsthand in Greece: refugees with no money, no housing, and yet prohibited from working. This reality makes refugee life difficult and profoundly sad.  Refugees become dependent on charity and UN/government support.

Uganda, however, has a different policy.  There refugees are allowed to work and even start their own businesses.  Refugees trade, invest, and contribute to the economy.  Before you think that this is a clear cut success story, prejudice makes business difficult for refugees in Uganda. NPR’s Planet Money recently told the story of Uganda’s policy to allow refugees to work.  When you’ve got 18 minutes, check out the story below (or via the Planet Money blog here).


I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections. What have you seen?  What do you think?


image: Gregory Warner/NPR


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