Private businesses by Syrian refugees in Egypt have contributed nearly $800 million to the Egyptian economy since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, a UN report revealed on Monday.
The report, which was conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), explores economic opportunities for Syrian refugees in MENA countries.
The report “explores the challenges faced in accessing and creating economic opportunities, and identifies approaches likely to expand economic opportunities for Syrian refugees, IDPs and their host communities, drawing on recent successes and ongoing efforts across these countries.”
The report argues that Syrian refugees offer a unique opportunity to bolster and invigorate the Egyptian private sector.
“Supporting Syrian business activity will provide the Egyptian private sector access to new technical expertise, financing and business networks. This will create jobs for Egyptians and Syrian refugees alike,” the report said.
Egypt, which has a population of 92 million, hosts 120,000 registered Syrian refugees, though the Egyptian government estimates the total number to be between 300,000 and 500,000.
The vast majority of working refugees operate within the informal economy.
The research cited in the report suggests that around 88 percent of Syrian refugees residing in Egypt are "very vulnerable" in terms of their economic situation.
Syrian refugees are integrated into urban areas, the report highlights, as there are no refugee camps in Egypt.
To facilitate Syrian business activity, the report recommends removing barriers faced by Syrian businesses, as they have proven capable of creating jobs for both Syrians and Egyptians.
It also calls on the Egyptian government, through “limited intervention,” to establish clear systems for Syrian-Egyptian business partnerships.
The report says that with a number of new labour law initiatives underway in Egypt, the aid community and Syrian representatives should represent refugee interests in labour law negotiations.
The report also recommends that Syrian refugees enter formal employment, saying this would trickle down positively on the Egyptian economy and would not threaten work opportunities for Egyptians.
“There are opportunities within Egypt’s legal framework for Syrians… The law allows the hiring and recognition of the professional credentials of foreigners, under certain conditions. Supporting Syrian refugees to navigate these processes would enable them to work legally, and bring their skills to the Egyptian labour market,” the reports.
Syria’s civil war has driven half of the country's population to flee their homes. More than 11 million Syrians have been displaced, with more than five million Syrian refugees now in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, and more than 6 million people are internally displaced within Syria.