Last night BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight included a feature on why some Syrian refugees are returning to Syria from neighbouring countries such as Jordan, despite the ongoing conflict in Syria, due to destitution and lack of opportunities. They spoke to the RSC Director, Professor Alexander Betts, about why this is happening and what can be done to help refugees in the region. He cited the lack of economic opportunities for refugees as they have no (or very restricted) right to work in the host countries. Syrians therefore have to rely on the savings they bring with them. Once these are used up, some people decide to move on, to Europe for example, or more desperately, to return to Syria.
Professor Betts recently visited Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan with colleague Professor Sir Paul Collier of Oxford's Blavatnik School of Government, and discovered that nearby is an economic development zone that is lacking in labour and investment by businesses. He suggested therefore that if Syrian refugees were allowed to work in this zone, alongside Jordanian nationals, this could then incubate Syrian businesses, perhaps with EU and other outside assistance. This would also be a development opportunity for Jordan, and could be replicated elsewhere.
Betts states that “having a zone like this, relatively close to the border areas, helps develop under-developed regions of the country and so benefits Jordan, but it also prepares people for when they can go home. It incubates the post-conflict economy of Syria.”
Help refugees help themselves: let displaced Syrians join the labour market, article by Alexander Betts & Paul Collier, Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2015.