Right to Work


Livelihoods refer to people's capabilities, assets and strategies to earn enough to support themselves and their family. Building self reliance in displacement situations is key to health.

Whilst any nation-state can regulate employement, including citizens and foreigners. However there is also legal and moral imperative to ensure refugees can access employment, and the same standards and protections that nationals enjoy.  

Equality at Work

Photo Credit: Tiff 

Asylum Access blog about Right to Work welcomes contributions. Occupational therapists are committed to the human right to work, and the importance it contributes to health and social inclusion.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines the right to work. To make explicit this right for refugees, the 1951 Refugee Convention protects access to self-employment, access waged-employment, access liberal profesions, and access labour and employment protections available to nationals (chapter 3, articles 17, 18, 19, 24).

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) suggests some interesting developments in labour mobility to reduce vulnerability of people following displacement.

"Many refugees flee to countries where they do not have access to agricultural land or the formal labour market. They are consequently obliged to rely on international assistance and occasional work in the informal sector. As a result, they may try to move to a state where better jobs appear to be available. In many cases, however, they lack the necessary passports, visas and work permits and may find themselves in a situation of continued vulnerability.

Such situations would not arise if refugees, especially those with particular skills, could exercise freedom of movement, gain access to the required documents and work legally in other countries. Although not a solution in itself, labour mobility could assist refugees to locally integrate in the country where they are working or their country of first asylum. It could also provide refugees with the resources and capacity to return to their country of origin, once it becomes safe to do so." 


Photo Credit: Mike Poresky

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