De-Mystifying Refugee Employment

Na'amal
5 min readSep 27, 2023

--

Refugees are a valuable but severely underutilized and undervalued resource in the workforce. The potential that refugee talent has to better any workplace is often dismissed on the grounds of popular misconceptions/fallacies regarding the reality of hiring refugees. This article aims to address common misconceptions about refugee employment that often discourage employers from seeking out refugee talent. Through real-world examples and partnerships, we shed light on practical solutions and opportunities for refugees and forward-thinking companies willing to embrace diversity and make a lasting impact by hiring refugee talent.

1. Technical Skills Competency Among Refugees

Acknowledging the setbacks that many refugees face — education interruptions due to violence and displacement, along with limited educational access in host countries — it’s imperative to recognize the extraordinary resilience of these individuals. Despite obstacles, they’re often the epitome of resourcefulness, seizing every opportunity to become proficient in the skills they can access. Their journey demonstrates a level of initiative, drive, and adaptability that’s unparalleled, embodying qualities that can greatly enrich your team.

What’s even more remarkable is the unique perspective they bring to the table. Their journey shapes an outlook that’s fueled by determination, innovation, and the ability to transform adversity into triumph. The path they’ve walked equips them with a lens that can revolutionize your workplace, inspiring creativity and driving impactful change.

At Na’amal, we’re proud to join hands with renowned partners like the Digital Opportunity Trust and MIT ReACT. Through our collaborative efforts, we equip refugee learners with in-demand digital skills that are both adequate and effective.

2. Language Proficiency Among Refugee Talent

Language barriers have long been a concern among employers considering hiring refugee talent. However, this concern is often rooted in misconceptions. The refugee community is diverse, with individuals possessing a strong command of the English language. Many refugees have honed their technical skills through English-medium education, ensuring a solid grasp of the language. Furthermore, language proficiency assessments such as the mandatory assessment Na’amal has before refugee learners can join our programmes align with B1 or higher English standards, signifying their competence in both spoken and written English.

Furthermore, our comprehensive workshops, internship exposure, and mentorship, conducted in English, prepare refugee talent to articulate, collaborate, and excel in remote work environments.

3. Internet Accessibility Challenges among Refugees

Another common concern in the world of remote work is the misconception that hiring refugee talent is hindered by internet access challenges. While it is true that internet access can be an issue for some refugees due to geography and limited resources, practical solutions are readily available. An example of such an accessible solution can be seen our work in collaboration with the Digital Opportunity Trust (DOT). In our ongoing ‘Digital Livelihoods in Ethiopia’ project, DOT provides our 30 dedicated refugee learners with monthly unlimited internet support that, in turn, facilitates consistent learning and online task performance for our learners.

This proactive approach demonstrates how straightforward it can be to ensure reliable internet access for our refugee talent. Na’amal and our partners are dedicated to making sure internet access does not limit our learners from accessing important work opportunities and we are prepared to collaborate with partner companies providing internship and full-time work opportunities to ensure internet access is not a barrier to refugee employment. We’re just a conversation away from understanding and collaboratively addressing any connectivity needs, ensuring that our refugee talent is equipped to excel in remote work.

4. How to issue payments to refugees?

Often, refugees are denied access to financial services due to their refugee identity documentation not being accepted within their locale and beyond. This has caused growing concerns among employers about whether they would be able to issue work-related payments to refugee employees which has, in turn, caused some level of reluctance towards hiring refugees. Despite these limitations being very real, there are now multiple ways in which relevant stakeholders are making financial services more inclusive for refugees on both infrastructural and service levels. This has made the process of paying remote refugee staff more accessible than ever before.

An example of such stakeholders is the digital banking platform, Wise. Through their recent policy action, Wise now accepts and regards refugee identification documents as valid and adequate for opening Wise bank accounts. Wise has since added the option to submit refugee identity documentation on their platform, thus allowing refugees to access vital financial services.

This initiative from Wise demonstrates the transformative power of technology and inclusive thinking. It also reveals the true state of financial service provision today as it relates to the employment for refugees that is: being able to hire and pay refugee talent is now a feasible and sustainably accessible option for employers. Wise’s actions should also serve as inspiration for other financial institutions and fintech companies to follow suit and recognize the value and potential within the refugee community as well as the needs specific to this population.

Way Forward

We invite you to continue challenging misconceptions that hinder refugee hiring in order to continue fostering an environment of inclusivity and empowerment. Hiring a refugee is not an inconvenience or a risk, these talented individuals are unparalleled assets to any workplace who deserve the opportunity to work. If you are a company seeking to make a positive impact, consider offering paid internship positions to our skilled refugee learners. If you are a working professional, consider getting involved by becoming a career mentor to our exceptional refugee talent. Together we can make the future of work more sustainably inclusive for refugees.

--

--

Na'amal

Na’amal delivers a remote work readiness programme through self-paced asynchronous online modules, virtual interactive workshops, one-to-one mentorship.