Entrepreneurship for Refugees Program in Lebanon

Iraqis have fled conflict in their own country to live in many other nations in the region. As many as 18,000 may be in Lebanon. Most of them are single men, who have quickly run through any savings they might have brought with them, and are unable to find work because residence visas in Lebanon require payment of a bond.

IRD’s Entrepreneurship for Refugees (EfR) program is building Iraqi refugees’ capacity to respond to employment and income generation opportunities in Lebanon, Iraq, and third countries and facilitate the ability of Iraqi male refugees to work legally while in Lebanon.

EfR is important because it assists a displaced population within the host country by addressing economic and livelihood needs. The program emphasizes job training directly linked to workforce requirements to get refugees swiftly into employment and support income generation. Iraqis participate in training sessions on various skills including electrical repairs, plumbing, car mechanics, construction, tailoring, painting, welding, carpentry, and catering.

EfR engages local businesses to provide on-the-job training to build employability potential. IRD has unprecedented access to the business community and a network of 750 businesses that are providing apprenticeship training to nearly 1,700 Iraqis in a variety of small business activities. The program targets men and women heads of household, and places them in an apprenticeship program within this network. IRD monitors graduates and the sponsoring business throughout the placement period and helps resolve any issues that arise. Businesses that host apprentices are compensated through a business development grant. Additionally, IRD provides small subsidies to contribute toward the graduate’s salary for the first three months of the year-long placement.

Legalization of refugees is crucial to ensuring their freedom of movement and providing space within which refugees can build their own support mechanisms. However, Lebanon’s dynamic political environment can make the process of obtaining legal status extremely difficult. IRD has helped more than 1,100 Iraqi beneficiaries gain legal status, valid for one year, which affords the beneficiary a much higher level of protection. IRD assists the applicant in preparing the necessary papers and assists applicants in obtaining documentation needed to be placed in a business. The program has also helped over 550 Iraqis renew their visas and work permits.

In partnership with the local Khiam Center for Rehabilitation and Right to Play, IRD has also provided 2,000 Iraqi families with counseling on pre-return informed choice, refugee rights, and available services in Lebanon. IRD and its partners also implemented a number of activities to inform refugee families about return prospects, reaching over 13,000 people.

The Entrepreneurship for Refugees Program (EfR) in Lebanon is funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM) and is managed by IRD. It is scheduled to run through September 2013.