Jobs can stem flow of refugees at the root

Updated: 2016-09-20 08:16

By La Yifan(China Daily)

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Jobs can stem flow of refugees at the root

Migrants are rescued during a MOAS operation off the coast of Libya August 18, 2016 in this handout picture courtesy of the Italian Red Cross released on August 19, 2016. Picture taken August 18, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

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".

Recent United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees data show there are more than 65.3 million refugees worldwide, more than that in the immediate aftermath of World War 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 is it in line with the basic norms of international humanitarian law.

Very soon, world leaders will gather in New York for the UN General Assembly and try to find ways to resolve the refugee crisis. Among the first few things that may come to their minds is peace and stability. By silencing the guns and restoring peace in the Middle 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, in the Middle 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 Prime Minister Hailemariam 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 country'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, during my conversation with International Organization for Migration's local representative Maureen 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.