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Executive Summary for February 19th

We review the latest issues related to refugees, including the opening of a job center in Jordan’s second largest refugee camp, the announcement of a list of the first Rohingya families for return to Myanmar and refugee films inspiring the Berlin Film Festival.

Published on Feb. 19, 2018 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

New Job Center Opens in Jordan Refugee Camp

A job center has been opened at Jordan’s second largest refugee camp, Azraq. The center is part of an international effort to find jobs for Syrian refugees.

The Azraq facility is part of the Jordan Compact, a major economic experiment to shift refugee support from humanitarian aid to economic development assistance. Under the compact Jordan will be given $1.7 billion in grants and concessional loans in return for opening its labor market to refugees.

The deal, signed in February 2016, foresaw 200,000 work permits being given to Syrians but progress has proved harder than expected. The government of Jordan says that 90,000 permits have been issued but this figure includes renewals and out-of-date permits.

The U.N. refugee agency estimates that only 30,000 permits are currently active, while the World Bank puts the figure at 47,000.

Early efforts to spur job creation have run into structural problems in Jordan’s economy, where there is high unemployment and stagnant economic growth. The Kingdom is already part of an International Monetary Fund program that is cutting subsidies to reduce budget deficits.

Jordan has partially opened its jobs market to Syrians but many occupations remain closed to foreigners, making progress under the compact dependent on farms and factories, as well as contraction sites to find employment.

“Any work is OK for me,” Sumaya Mohammed Jidaa, a 39-year-old widow and mother of six inquiring about a sewing job, told reporters. “Just give us money to take care of our children.”

Patrick Daru, country coordinator of the International Labor Organization, said: “You cannot expect the private sector to simply make use of a trade agreement if the proper support is not being provided.”

Thousands of Rohingya Refugees Nominated for Return to Myanmar

Bangladesh has given the first list of Rohingya refugees to be returned to Myanmar. Some 1,673 Rohingya families have been nominated, although it is not clear how they have been chosen.

Bangladesh home minister Asaduzzaman Khan announced the list, drawn up under the terms of a controversial November agreement between the two countries.

Aid groups have condemned the returns agreement as premature and Myanmar stands accused of ethnic cleansing in areas dominated by the Muslim minority.

“The Myanmar side cordially accepted the list, and they sought our help to make it happen,” Khan told reporters. The minister said officials in Myanmar would choose 6,500 people on February 19 for initial returns. “They (Myanmar) said they will take them all in three phases,” he said. “No specific time frame has been decided yet when they will start returning.”

Refugee Films Resonate at Berlin Film Festival

Refugee-themed works dominated the Berlin Film Festival, which has opened in the German capital. Refugees and migration were part of at least eight entries, from documentaries to features.

“It’s much more that you now look at what refugees are doing after they arrived in our Europe. What is their future?” said Dieter Kosslick, the festival’s director.

The fallout from large numbers of asylum seekers entering Germany in 2015 has dominated German politics, with a recent coalition deal only being struck after Social Democrats agreed to cap the number of new arrivals under family reunification rules.

One documentary, “Central Airport THF,” brought to life the 15-month-long blog of a Syrian refugee at the camp in Berlin’s Tempelhof airport. Other films, including “Transit,” draw implicit parallels with past refugee crises, like the flight of Jews from Nazi Germany.

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