June 17, 2016
The right to work and earn a living is a human right, whether people are citizens of the country where they live, or if they are refugees seeking to make a host country their new home. Without this right, refugees can be trapped in a cycle of relying on human service institutions – or private charities – to obtain the basics they need to survive.
Recognizing the need to defend and promote the refugee right to work, in 2016, UUSC developed a partnership with Asylum Access – Refugee Solutions Tanzania (or Asylum Access Tanzania – AATZ – for short). AATZ was founded in 2009 with the mission of making “human rights a reality for nearly 296,000 refugees living in prolonged displacement in Tanzania” and is the only organization in Tanzania that is dedicated exclusively to ensuring the rights of refugees. Tanzania has become a safe haven for people escaping conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and other countries in the Horn of Africa, and today it hosts one of the largest populations of refugees in all of Africa.
Despite having signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and passage of the Tanzania Refugee Act of 1998, refugees are required to live in camps, where they are denied the right to free movement and cannot seek safe and legal employment. As a result, many refugees flee these camps for Dar es Salaam and other Tanzanian cities, where they face the constant risk of arrest and detention. Without the right to work, they live in poverty on the margins of Tanzanian society. AATZ carries out its work to protect their human rights through three main activities:
- Legal Services: AATZ provides refugees with legal assistance to help them win release from unjust detention, access employment and education, reunite with family, and obtain legal permission to remain outside the camps. Their “Know Your Rights” trainings provide information to empower refugees with the information they need to understand their rights and advocate for themselves.
- Entrepreneurship and Skills Training: These programs help refugees build employment, income-earning, and leadership skills so they can gain employment and become self-sufficient. Recent programs have been aimed at empowering refugee women through trainings in micro-finance and other work-related skills.
- Policy Advocacy: AATZ advocates for changes in law and policy that improve refugees’ access to rights, while working with government officials and global decision-makers to develop and promote solutions to systemic rights violations.
AATZ is a pioneer in the movement to advance the refugee right to work. During Tanzania’s most recent United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of its human rights performance, AATZ and its partners released a report that was the first of its kind to address the human rights of refugees in the UPR process for Tanzania.
With support from UUSC, AATZ is carrying out its “Refugee Right to Work Initiative,” benefiting an estimated 1,500 refugees in Tanzania, and thousands more if the anticipated policy changes are implemented.
Philip Hamilton, UUSC Associate for Economic Justice, explains the importance of the new AATZ – UUSC partnership.
“The right to work is enshrined in numerous international and regional human rights documents and guaranteed for all individuals, including refugees. Any effort to limit or prohibit refugees from finding work is a clear violation of the right to work and leaves refugees vulnerable to a number of other rights violations.”