Gender, Race, and Identity: Examining the Barriers to Protecting Refugees’ Right to Work
Refugees’ right to work is essential for achieving livelihoods and contributing to building their communities. There is a need for refugee-host states to make their employment markets available for refugees and strengthen access to fair work. However, negative national stereotypes, identity-based discrimination, violence against refugee women, and persecution of LGBTIQ+ refugees are widespread, which resonates with the challenges that refugees face in accessing safe employment and income-generating opportunities. In addition, many refugees are subject to discrimination in the informal labor market, making it difficult for them to find jobs or to earn a living wage. This is combined by the reluctance of some employers to hire refugees because of their race. Although the economic and labour market constraints contribute to the wider discrimination that exists in accessing employment, refugee host states have the procedural and administrative mechanisms that protect refugees’ right to work.
Legally, the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees grants the right to labour to refugees. However, some states that host refugees are hesitant to grant refugees this right. This reflects several concerns about refugees’ gender, race, and identity. This paper discusses the circumstances under which refugee-host states grant refugees their right to work in accordance with the 1951 United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees. It addresses the question of why states vary in protecting refugees’ right to work? The paper offers support for the idea that the legal right to work in refugee-host states is governed by international obligations and domestic laws, while the right to work practically is shaped by the cultural and political acceptance of host communities. The paper explores whether procedural and administrative mechanisms support the variation in state practice in protecting refugees’ right to work. It argues that refugees in many host-states have encountered discrimination to access the right to work, while states are still reluctant to protect refugees’ right to work legally and practically.
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