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  • Writer's pictureKyle Kvamme

Does participating in livelihoods programs negatively impact resettlement opportunities?



ORAM's work supporting livelihoods projects began in Kakuma Refugee Camp in 2019 by providing skills training and seed funding to LGBTIQ refugee entrepreneurs. Between 2019 and 2023, ORAM alone has provided nearly 400 LGBTIQ refugees in Kenya with in-depth vocational and technical training. Just last year, ORAM provided seed funding to 52 LGBTIQ refugees in Kenya, who earned, on average, $100 a month from their projects.


Despite the many benefits that livelihoods programs offer, misinformation has circulated among LGBTIQ refugees in Kakuma that establishing livelihoods projects negatively impacts one's chances of resettlement. ORAM staff recently addressed this topic during a community outreach meeting in Kakuma with members of the LGBTIQ refugee community. This blog post will shed more light on this topic to distinguish the truth from rumors.


Myth or Fact 1 – Resettlement and livelihoods projects are interconnected, and participating in livelihoods projects will negatively impact your chances of resettlement. 


Myth: Myth: While livelihoods projects are not "interconnected" with resettlement, they are not entirely separate, and participating in livelihoods may even help a refugee's chances of resettlement. "Actively participating in projects like livelihoods can positively impact resettlement, as it is in case files by UNHCR, and governments are more likely to pick individuals who work and have skills," Anja Limon, ORAM's Senior Program Manager, said.   

  

Several participants of ORAM's livelihoods programs have been resettled, further debunking this myth. Ssebuuma Stephen Anita, a former participant in ORAM's livelihoods training in Kenya, was recently resettled to Toronto, Canada. Anita, originally from Uganda, lived in Kenya for seven years before getting resettled last October.   

  

Anita trained in cosmetology with an emphasis on nails, makeup, and massage therapy and shared that livelihoods training helped her find stability in Kenya. “I was happy in Nairobi,” she said. "I was so excited to do makeup and massage...it was a passion of my heart. I love that job so much," she shared about her livelihoods project.    

 

Anita is looking forward to utilizing the skills she learned through her livelihoods training in Canada. "I want to thank ORAM for providing us with skills in Africa. If we leave Africa to another country, we can get other opportunities," she said. 

 

Another past participant of ORAM’s livelihoods programs doesn’t believe participation in livelihoods negatively affects resettlement determinations. “Resettlement is beyond working or not working,” shared Bosco, a nonbinary refugee from Uganda who resettled in Seattle, Washington, last year. “I know some LGBTIQ refugee community members think once you are part of livelihoods, you will [not get] resettled. But I’m a real-life example. I’ve been in livelihoods, I’ve been a leader, I’ve worked for organizations, and I’m here in Seattle,” they shared.  


Myth or Fact 2 - Participation in livelihoods is used to keep refugees in host countries.


Myth: During our community outreach meeting in Kakuma, ORAM staff addressed this topic by sharing information on UNHCR's resettlement process and the benefits of participating in livelihoods projects. "Since the introduction of AIM (Application for Integrated Management - an electronic tool that selects cases based on different criteria), several refugees have been resettled regardless of their economic engagement in the camp. However, livelihoods training not only has a positive impact on the resettlement chances but prepares a refugee to be ready for meaningful employment opportunities available in the country of resettlement when their time comes," shared Reuben Okwach, ORAM's Program Assistant in Kakuma. 

 

Resettlement is an extraordinarily lengthy and complex process, with less than one percent of refugees globally resettled in a year, according to UNHCR. Individual cases will have individual timelines that can vary for many different factors. “The resettlement country makes the final decision concerning the resettlement of a refugee and not UNHCR. Each resettlement country has its own regulations and procedures for the resettlement of refugees and therefore reserves the right to accept or reject a refugee,” UNHCR shares on its website with resettlement information. While many factors contribute to resettlement, there is no evidence that participating in livelihoods prevents a refugee from being resettled.  


Myth or Fact 3 - Participating in livelihoods will positively impact the participants' lives.


Fact: Participation in livelihoods projects can bring positive benefits to a refugee's life and help others in the community, in addition to earning income. One bisexual refugee in Kakuma shared that his livelihoods project has allowed him to support himself and employ other community members. Additionally, practicing in a livelihoods project has improved his physical and mental health.   

  

"It is the feeling that you are strong and that you are an important person. It is a sense of pride and self-esteem," he said on the positive impact of his livelihoods project on his mental health. "Even my physical health has become better. It's thanks to my time being busy, unlike the past [when] I used to not [have] a job," he shared.   

 

“It’s good for everyone...it will change your mindset if you are a part of it,” Bosco said on their thoughts on participating in livelihoods in Kenya. “Any challenges you face in your project will teach you something. You [learn] how to go around it... Even if you come to America, you need some skills,” they said.  



ORAM has witnessed from our years working with livelihoods projects that they can help the chances of resettlement, are not utilized to keep refugees in their host countries, and can provide several benefits to refugees' well-being and the well-being of other refugees in their communities.   

  

If you enjoyed this "myth versus fact" series and would like to see more, contact Kyle at kylek@oramrefugee.org with other topic ideas.   

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