Project Category: Refugees

Most of the world's refugees live in developing countries. Those countries are largely overlooked in the research on dynamics between refugees and the communities hosting them. IPL conducted a survey in Jordan, one of the top destinations for Syrian refugees. It found that most Jordanians have strong humanitarian concern for the refugees, even though they believe the refugee crisis has strained their economy and social services.
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When refugees are resettled in the United States, they're assigned to live in a specific location. But many refugees move to a different state within their first several years in the country. What are they looking for? According to a new dataset on nearly 450,000 refugees, they mostly seek two things that will help them rebuild their lives: better job markets and others from their home country.
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Many policymakers assume that living in or near an ethnic community makes immigrants less likely to integrate. They tend to overlook the ways these communities help newcomers gain a foothold in their new home. That support system can be especially beneficial for refugees, but countries often disperse them across resettlement locations in a way that discourages them from clustering. We studied refugees in Switzerland and found evidence that ethnic communities can help new arrivals find work.
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Many countries require asylum seekers to wait for months or years before entering the local labor market. How does this period of forced unemployment affect their ability to integrate later on? A natural experiment in Germany reveals that asylum seekers who face longer wait times are less likely to be employed, even after a decade in the country.
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Countries receiving refugees could pave the way for integration by sending them to the place where it would be easiest for them to find employment. Using historical data from the United States and Switzerland, IPL designed an algorithm that matches refugees to their optimal city or town. It’s a policy innovation that could be easily implemented anywhere in the world and at virtually no cost.
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Despite rising nationalism and anti-Muslim sentiment, most Europeans would prefer a humane and cooperative asylum system over the restrictive policies of the far right. IPL research reveals an untapped well of support for refugees and a strong mandate for reform.
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Asylum seekers often are left in limbo while their applications are processed, and the prolonged uncertainty and discouragement take a toll. According to IPL analysis of records from Switzerland, the years spent waiting make them less likely to find a job when they’re finally approved. Countries receiving refugees should take note: reducing wait times could boost their employment rates and benefit the local economy.
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