Migration Media Award: Special Prize for Longread
Author: Hannah Patchett in Jordan, Charlotte Alfred in Lebanon and Daniel Howden in Europe
Media: Refugees Deeply
Date of Publication: December 2017
Title: The Compact Experiment
Short summary: The Compact Experiment investigated the genesis and results of one of the world’s most important economic experiments for refugees. Refugees are often depicted as a strain on countries’ economies. The resulting tensions are particularly acute in developing countries, which shelter the largest numbers of refugees. But an experiment born in Jordan set out to prove that it doesn’t have to be this way. The “Compacts” saw billions of dollars in grants and concessional loans pledged to Jordan and Lebanon in exchange for opening up their labor markets to Syrian refugees. The idea was to unlock the economic potential of countries sheltering refugees through international investment and trade barrier exemptions. In turn, refugees permitted to work would contribute to economic development and be able to support their families with decent jobs. The story investigates how progressive and conservative political interests coalesced around this model. It follows Jordan’s struggle to dole out enough work permits – let alone create new jobs – and Lebanon’s insistence that return to Syria must underpin any refugee employment.
Link to original publication
In September 2015, as Europe veered between fear and compassion in response to the refugee crisis, the outline of a radical reform to refugee policy appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs. Its authors – Paul Collier, an influential development economist, and Alexander Betts, a social scientist and then-head of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford – proposed a pathway for Syrian refugees into Jordan’s labor market.
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