UNHCR signs agreement to grant work permits for 30,000 refugees in east Sudan

Making a Difference, 2 October 2013

© UNHCR/A.Awad
A group of refugees in eastern Sudan. Under the new agreement, many will be able to work and become more self-sufficient.

KASSALA, Sudan, October 2 (UNHCR) Nearly 30,000 work permits will be granted to refugees in Sudan's Kassala state under an agreement with the UN refugee agency to improve the livelihoods of refugees and reduce their dependence on external assistance.

The agreement between UNHCR and Sudan's Commission for Refugees (COR), Kassala State, and Kassala Ministry of Finance last week after negotiations that began in late 2011 is an unprecedented step for refugees in Sudan. Work permits are essential for refugees to legally work and have the same employee rights as Sudanese citizens.

"The government of Sudan's endorsement of this agreement represents a huge milestone in the refugees' progress towards self-reliance and reducing dependency on external humanitarian aid," said Mohamed Qassim, head of UNHCR Sub-Office Kassala. "To this end, the agreement is of the upmost importance to accessing meaningful livelihood opportunities for the refugees in this region."

It is one of several recent interventions UNHCR has taken to increase the self-sufficiency of the mainly Eritrean refugees in eastern Sudan under the Transitional Solutions Initiative (TSI) in conjunction with the government of Sudan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. It has been supported by Denmark, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United States, as well as the IKEA Foundation.

UNHCR will work with the Labour Office under the Ministry of Finance to inform refugees about workers' rights to prevent exploitation. Beyond this, the Labour Office will be strengthened to streamline procedures for issuing work permits to refugees and enhance its ability to gather information about the labour market.

"It is the duty and responsibility of the government of Sudan to provide a conducive environment and regulatory environment for refugees, with the support of the UN, enabling them to become active members of society and contribute to it," Abd Elmoiz Hassan Abdelgadir, acting minister of finance, said of the agreement.

Although Sudan's Asylum Act allows a refugee to work in any job except those related to security and national defence, work permits were difficult to obtain. In 2012, only 180 refugees were issued with the required documentation.

Consequently, many refugees found employment as casual labourers and were very disadvantaged. Refugees are also self-employed in sectors such as agriculture, livestock production and micro-business. Despite the refugees' efforts, a UNHCR assessment at the end of 2012 revealed that more than 52 per cent of the refugee population lived below the poverty line.

The TSI programme seeks to reduce refugee dependency on external aid by creating meaningful livelihood opportunities, so refugee camps can operate as self-sufficient communities. After an assessment by UNDP in 2012 revealed gaps in technical skills, the TSI programme trained refugees and members of host communities in vocational skills like driving, mechanics and mobile phone repair.

To date, the TSI has trained 1,263 refugees and 316 members of the host community. Issuing work permits and formally drawing refugees into labour markets will contribute to the Sudanese economy.

By Lisa Pattison in Kassala, Sudan

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

International Women's Day 2013

Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.

On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.

These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.

International Women's Day 2013

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

What would you bring with you if you had to flee your home and escape to another country? More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to ponder this question before making the dangerous flight to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq or other countries in the region.

This is the second part of a project by photographer Brian Sokol that asks refugees from different parts of the world, "What is the most important thing you brought from home?" The first instalment focused on refugees fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan, who openly carried pots, water containers and other objects to sustain them along the road.

By contrast, people seeking sanctuary from the conflict in Syria must typically conceal their intentions by appearing as though they are out for a family stroll or a Sunday drive as they make their way towards a border. Thus they carry little more than keys, pieces of paper, phones and bracelets - things that can be worn or concealed in pockets. Some Syrians bring a symbol of their religious faith, others clutch a reminder of home or of happier times.

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

When fighting erupted in Kormaganza, Blue Nile state, in September last year, 80-year-old Dawa Musa's family decided to flee to the neighbouring village of Mafot. Dawa was too frail to make the two-day journey by foot, so her son, Awad Kutuk Tungud, hid her in the bush for three days while he moved his wife, Alahia, and nine children to safety. Awad returned for his mother and carried her to Mafot, where the family remained in relative safety for several months - until artillery began shelling the village.

Awad again fled with his family - this time across the border to South Sudan. For 15 gruelling days, he carried both his elderly mother and his daughter Zainab on his back, until they reached the border crossing at Al Fudj in February. UNHCR transported the family to Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile state. They lived in safety for seven months until heavy rains caused flooding, making it difficult for UNHCR to bring clean water to the camp and bringing the threat of highly contagious waterborne diseases.

UNHCR set up a new camp in Gendrassa, located 55 kilometres from Jamam and on higher ground, and began the relocation of 56,000 people to the new camp. Among them were Awad and his family. Awad carried his mother once again, but this time it was to their new tent in Gendrassa camp. Awad has plans to begin farming. "Come back in three months," he said, "and there will be maize growing."

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

South Sudan: Helping the Most VulnerablePlay video

South Sudan: Helping the Most Vulnerable

UNHCR comes to the assistance of older, disabled and sickly Sudanese refugees arriving in Yusuf Batil Camp.
Sudan: A Perilous RoutePlay video

Sudan: A Perilous Route

Kassala camp in eastern Sudan provides shelter to thousands of refugees from Eritrea. Many of them pass through the hands of ruthless and dangerous smugglers.
Sudan: Heading for a New HomePlay video

Sudan: Heading for a New Home

UNHCR is offering to help move hundreds of people from Sudan to newly independent South Sudan, where they will build new lives. Almost 250 families with ties to the south are waiting for a ride.