In the 2014 Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture, held yesterday at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, HRH Princess Basma bint Talal of Jordan highlighted the benefits of forced migration for receiving countries such as Jordan.1 She argued that 'nations that adjust well [to hosting refugees]… benefit more rapidly from the introduction of all types of new skills, labour and capital… as well as the heightened demand for economic activity.' Conversely, nations that assign refugees 'inferior status' gain less, incur greater damage and 'thus in the long term refugees become a burden rather than a boon.'
Princess Basma illustrated this by looking back at experiences of previous refugees in Jordan in the last century, citing refugees’ innovation and creativity as promoting development. She stated that 'Looking back, and despite the problems and price initially paid, I believe that as a result, Jordan has emerged as a better country.'
This viewpoint is supported by recent research by the Refugee Studies Centre on 'Refugee Economies', which found that refugees are often entrepreneurial and, if given the opportunity, can help themselves and their communities, and contribute to the host economy.2
The communities comprising the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan have a long history as refugee hosts. This continues today, with Jordan now hosting over 600,000 refugees from Syria and over 10,000 from Iraq.3
HRH Princess Basma bint Talal has worked nationally, regionally and internationally for over 35 years to promote a range of global issues, most notably in the areas of human development, gender equity, population, education, and the environment. She is particularly involved with supporting the implementation of sustainable development programmes that address the social and economic needs of marginalized groups, including refugees.
Princess Basma is Honorary Human Development Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). She is also a Global Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture 2014 took place at 5pm on Wednesday 5 November 2014, at the Examination Schools, 81 High Street, Oxford, OX1 4AS.
A podcast of the lecture is now available.
1 A pdf copy of the lecture, titled ‘Forced Migration to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: Burden or Boon’, is available on request.
2 Refugee Economies: Rethinking Popular Assumptions, by A Betts, L Bloom, J Kaplan, N Omata. Humanitarian Innovation Project, Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, 2014.
3 By June 2014, 605,157 Syrian refugees had registered with UNHCR in Jordan, with 506,222 residing in host communities and 98,935 in the camps of Zaatari, Emirati Jordanian and Azraq (UNHCR Jordan Overview: http://www.unhcr.org/5385de2c9.html). As of September 2014, 10,644 Iraqi refugees had registered with UNHCR in Jordan, with 1383 registering in August alone (UNHCR press briefing 23 September 2014: http://www.unhcr.org/54214cfe9.html).
Tamsin Kelk, Communications and Information Coordinator, Refugee Studies Centre
Tel: +44 (0)1865 281707.
Helen Bunting, Communications Assistant, Refugee Studies Centre
Tel: +44 (0)1865 281724