Jobs can stem flow of refugees at the root

... jobs have to be cre­ated, in large num­bers, in Mid­dle East and African coun­tries to hold back the tidal waves of refugees ...

China Daily (USA) - - VIEW -

Bill Clin­ton won his pres­i­den­tial cam­paign on the slo­gan “it’s the econ­omy, stupid!” in 1992. Those who are en­gaged in re­set­tling refugees and re­turn­ing mi­grants may have to adopt the same ap­proach, sub­sti­tut­ing “job” for “econ­omy”.

Re­cen­tUnit­edNa­tion­sHigh Com­mis­sioner for Refugees data show there are more than 65.3 mil­lion refugees world­wide, more than that in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math ofWorldWar II. In 2015 alone, more than 1 mil­lion refugees fled to Europe. Refugee-re­lated vi­o­lence has put many coun­tries’ pub­lic se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus on se­ri­ous test. And the asy­lum seek­ers have left the host coun­tries trapped in a moral dilemma. Stop­ping the refugees at the bor­der and forcibly repa­tri­at­ing them is not a durable so­lu­tion, nor it is in line with the ba­sic norms of in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian law.

Very soon, world lead­ers will gather in­NewYork for theUN Gen­eral Assem­bly and try to find ways to re­solve the refugee cri­sis. Among the first fewthings that may come to their minds is peace and sta­bil­ity. By si­lenc­ing the guns and restor­ing peace in theMid­dle East and much of the trou­bled re­gions in Africa, they could stem the flow of refugees at the root. But jobs have to be cre­ated, in large num­bers, in­Mid­dle East and African coun­tries to hold back the tidal waves of refugees flow­ing into Europe and other parts of the de­vel­oped world.

Last month, to­gether with Ethiopian PrimeMin­is­terHaile­mariam Des­salegn and other lead­ers, I at­tended the com­ple­tion cer­e­mony of the Ad­dis Ababa Outer Ring Road Project, ex­e­cuted by a Chi­nese com­pany. We were in­formed that sev­eral thou­sand work­ers have been em­ployed for the project, and well over 90 per­cent of them are lo­cal peo­ple. For an­other big­ger project— the Ad­dis Ababa to Djbouti Rail­way — which will of­fi­cially start oper­at­ing next month, al­most 40,000 lo­cal jobs have been cre­ated.

Chi­nese com­pa­nies, like oth­ers in­clud­ing In­dian, Turk­ish and Euro­pean, have not only con­trib­uted to the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and so­cial progress of Ethiopia, but also helped cre­ate much-needed jobs for the coun- try’s youth who are most likely to mi­grate to de­vel­oped coun­tries. More than 3,000 Chi­nese en­ter­prises have in­vested in Africa, in­clud­ing 400 in Ethiopia. On av­er­age each Chi­nese could gen­er­ate 15 to 20 lo­cal jobs. With the to­tal num­ber of Chi­nese do­ing busi­ness in Ethiopia ex­ceed­ing 50,000, it means that nearly 1 mil­lion lo­cal jobs have been cre­ated.

Re­cently, dur­ingmy con­ver­sa­tion with In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion forMi­gra­tion’s lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tiveMau­reen Achieng, is­sues were raised about how China could con­trib­ute to the re­set­tle­ment of re­turned mi­grants. IOM has spent huge amounts of money to train Ethiopian re­turned mi­grants in some ba­sic skills. But they could ven­ture abroad again if there are no job prospects.

We ex­plored the pos­si­bil­ity of hold­ing a job fair for the re­turned mi­grants. Af­ter dis­cussing the is­sue with the Chi­nese Cham­ber of Com­merce in Ethiopia, over 20 of the mem­ber en­ter­prises of­fered more than 1,000 jobs rang­ing from of­fice clerks to driv­ers to la­bor­ers on con­struc­tion sites. And we are more than happy to or­ga­nize a job fair next week in Ad­dis Ababa thanks to the en­thu­si­asm and sup­port of the Chi­nese Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Af­ter some Euro­pean em­bassies here came to know about the de­vel­op­ment, they have shown in­ter­est in con­tribut­ing to the process by en­cour­ag­ing their own chambers of com­merce to fol­low their Chi­nese coun­ter­part’s ex­am­ple.

I do hope the job fair helps mit­i­gate, even in a small mea­sure, the mi­gra­tion and refugee prob­lem. And I do be­lieve that oth­ers will fol­low. It is a prob­lem for all of us. The au­thor is China’s am­bas­sador to Ethiopia.

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