Reflections from the DREEM Youth Advisory Committee: The Exclusion of Refugees in the Job Market and Economic Sectors Harms their Health
Hello, my name is Christine Achot Dior. I am a South Sudanese urban refugee living in Nairobi, Kenya. Before moving to Nairobi, I previously lived in Kakuma Refugee Camp for a good number of years. I have worked voluntarily for the refugees both at the The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Resettlement Support Center (RSC) Africa as an interpreter for 7 years. I have also worked for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a field support officer, carrying out surveys on the South Sudanese refugees in urban centers in Kenya to map out their challenges. I have been an active youth leader in my community and a chairperson for a refugee youth organization. All these experiences have exposed me to the vast and core challenges that refugees experience daily.
One of the key challenges faced by refugees is the lack of inclusion in the job market and economic sectors within Kenya. The majority of refugees in Kenya are confined in overcrowded camps, including Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. Over the years, the number of refugees residing in urban centers across Kenya has increased significantly. UNHCR estimates that 16% of the 508,033 refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya live in urban centers.
From my experience, both urban refugees and those in isolated and desolate refugee camps face similar challenges when it comes to inclusion in the job market and economic sectors. Exclusion of refugees and asylum seekers is a systematic process. First, access to quality education is limited for refugees, especially girls. The education program in refugee camps only goes up to secondary level. To make it worse, elementary and secondary schools are often overcrowded and under-resourced with qualified staff and school supplies. To access higher learning, refugee youth must fight over a limited number of university scholarship slots, thus leaving a vast number of refugee youths stranded at the secondary school level. With limited education, these youths remain unengaged in the job market.
Secondly, exclusion of refugees and asylum seekers in the job market and economic sector is accomplished by systematically denying them legal work permits. An alien Identity Card (ID) that was supposed to be a legal document allowing refugees socioeconomic mobility has been rendered useless. This form of identification does not allow you to open a bank account, and this is an issue particularly for urban refugees. Even though one is well-educated, these barriers make it impossible for the vast majority of refugees and asylum seekers to be included in the job market and economic sectors.
All of these challenges affect the mental and physical health of many refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya. This is because without income, access to quality healthcare services is reduced due to their inability to pay for treatment.
I believe it is about time the world redefines how refugees can be afforded equitable and quality opportunities so they become productive members within the global economy.
I believe the Displaced and Refugee Youth Enabling Economic Mechanism (DREEM) project – an exciting partnership between the Mastercard Foundation and WUSC – is important in ensuring that refugees and displaced youth, particularly young women, have access to diverse opportunities in higher education, dignified and fulfilling employment, entrepreneurship and leadership in their communities, and beyond.
I am part of the 12- member Youth Advisory Committee for the DREEM project. I believe that the DREEM project’s mandate to empower refugees and displaced populations with quality education, job opportunities, and livelihoods is a timely and an important undertaking that will pave the way for many more actors to join in. I am excited to be a part of the DREEM project as a member of the Youth Advisory Committee.
Christine Achot Dior
Youth Advisory Committee Member
The Displaced and Refugee Youth Enabling Environment Mechanism (DREEM) project is a 5-year project funded by the Mastercard Foundation that is working to facilitate an enabling environment for the inclusion of refugee and displaced youth, especially young women, to fully participate in society. The Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) is a group of young refugees whose role is to provide guidance to the DREEM project to enable the objectives of the Foundation and ensure that DREEM activities are designed and delivered to meet the needs of refugees and displaced young people.