Across the globe, millions of people are displaced and in need of safety and protection. Only about 1% of refugees have access to resettlement each year, leaving millions of people in limbo and a significant talent pool often untapped. Labour complementary pathways provide an additional way, beyond resettlement, for displaced people to find durable solutions in third countries through labour migration programs. In so doing, they recognize refugees’ skills, experience and talent, in addition to their need for protection.
To see these successes on a larger scale, we need to make labour immigration avenues accessible to refugees. Today, the Global Task Force on Refugee Labour Mobility was launched and introduced Canada as its inaugural chair. The Task Force will build momentum for labour complementary pathways around the world. Leaders from Canada, Australia, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, the International Chamber of Commerce, Fragomen, Talent Beyond Boundaries, and RefugePoint held the first meeting of the Task Force to discuss the transformative potential of refugee labour mobility initiatives.
By working together with like-minded partners and countries, Canada will continue to be a global leader in attracting international talent to fill skilled labour shortages and drive post-pandemic economic recovery. Labour complementary pathways are intended to work alongside existing humanitarian resettlement programs, with the goal of expanding the number of pathways available for skilled refugees to immigrate abroad.
This initiative builds on Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP), a ground-breaking program that recognizes the skills and abilities of refugees by removing barriers and helping them and their families immigrate to Canada through existing economic programs.
The Task Force will engage with global stakeholders from governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society to increase the number of skilled refugees welcomed to Canada, while decreasing labour shortages where Canada needs it most.
The Task Force will organize activities throughout the year to identify opportunities to implement and increase labour pathway initiatives. In addition, it will work to better understand the policy and operational challenges associated with their implementation and to find practical solutions to overcome them. This will include immense collaboration to ensure pilot projects can develop into official programs. The success of this work will rely on participation from the many stakeholders who actively support the implementation of these pathways, and whose experience and lessons learned will be crucial to informing policy and program improvements.
The Task Force will also prepare a detailed report in 2024, which will document its work and successes and outline policy and operational considerations for the scaling and institutionalization of labour complementary pathways for refugees around the world.
Through this global collaboration, the Task Force will explore how these initiatives can support skilled refugees in need of protection, while also providing opportunities for them to make meaningful contributions to their new communities.
Understanding and facilitating the admission of skilled refugees through alternative and innovative pathways is not only a complement to our humanitarian commitments, it is a commitment to economic growth through supporting our communities and industries across the country that rely on immigration. Labour complementary pathways will increase the attraction and retention of newcomers in regions with acute economic, labour and demographic challenges. Together, the Global Task Force on Refugee Labour Mobility will further help bring the immeasurable contributions of immigrants to our communities and all sectors of the economy.
“Labour complementary pathways are win-win solutions: they provide refugees and their families with meaningful, additional pathways to protection, while supporting the growth of communities by meeting labour market needs. This initiative builds on Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot, which is already helping to increase refugee labour mobility. As Chair of the Task Force for the next 2 years, Canada will work closely with a wide range of partners, including refugees with lived experience, to lay the foundation for implementing innovative solutions worldwide.”
– The Honourable Sean Fraser, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
“Skilled refugees make a significant contribution to the communities, labour markets and economies of receiving countries. This has been demonstrated in particular by Australia’s Skilled Refugee Labour Agreement Pilot. Australia is proud to be a member of the Task Force and is committed to working with the international community to foster global dialogue on labour complementary pathways for refugees and displaced people.”
– The Honourable Alex Hawke, Australia’s Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs
“Far too often I meet refugees with enormous talent but limited opportunity. Labour complementary pathways are a way to change that. They provide the protection and safety refugees need, while also giving them the chance to make the most of their skills to improve not only their lives and those of their families, but also the countries and communities that welcome them.”
– Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
“At the International Organization for Migration (IOM), we recognize the potential of labour mobility pathways for leveraging the skills and talents of millions of displaced people—and at the same time providing safeguards for their protection. As an organization with decades-long experience in the field of migration governance, resettlement, labour migration and emergencies, IOM understands that crafting regular migration pathways that explicitly—and unusually—combine humanitarian and economic principles will be a challenging but hugely rewarding task. The Global Task Force on Refugee Labour Mobility provides an excellent opportunity to identify collaborative solutions that put both the vulnerabilities and the strengths of migrants at the centre of all policy and program design.”
– Ugochi Daniels, Deputy Director General for Operations, International Organization for Migration
“As the institutional representative of the global private sector, the International Chamber of Commerce enables businesses to secure peace, prosperity and opportunity for all, including displaced people whose livelihoods have been compromised. This initiative on labour mobility is a great example of how businesses worldwide can contribute to the delivery of durable solutions for the millions of displaced people across the globe.”
– John W. H. Denton AO, Secretary General, International Chamber of Commerce
“We are proud to be a member of the Global Task Force on Refugee Labour Mobility. We are currently helping refugees to enter Canada and other countries through routes that have already been created—benefiting both the refugees and employers needing skilled workers. I have no doubt that through the work of the Task Force, support for this wonderful initiative will grow as more countries and employers seek to play a role. It will make a positive difference to many people around the world, and Fragomen looks forward to working with fellow members of the Task Force to build on the important progress to date.”
– David Crawford, Managing Partner, Toronto Office, Fragomen
“Labour mobility and the idea of self-reliance for refugees are rooted in dignity. They flip the script on the perception of refugees from victims of war to people with strengths, skills and unique abilities to contribute to their communities. After interviewing for a job through the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot, one candidate said to RefugePoint’s team, ‘this was the best day of my life as a refugee because I felt seen for who I am.’ With forced displacement at unprecedented levels—more than 1% of humanity has been forced from home—we must envision a different future, one in which communities and countries compete to bring in refugees. Labour mobility is a path to that future.”
– Sasha Chanoff, CEO and Founder, RefugePoint
“Talent Beyond Boundaries was founded 6 years ago in recognition of a core truth: refugees are people with skills, talents and aspirations. When embraced, displaced people can be assets to companies and communities around the world, enriching us all. Since our founding, we’ve assisted more than 500 refugees to achieve safety and security through skilled migration pathways. This includes around 280 candidates who have secured employment in Australia, Canada and the UK, plus their family members. But this is just the beginning. Over 40,000 displaced people from around the world are currently registered on our Talent Catalog. Refugees need solutions now more than ever. We urgently need to scale displaced talent mobility as a complementary pathway, enabling people to resume their careers and rebuild their lives with dignity and purpose.”
– Stephanie Cousins, CEO, Talent Beyond Boundaries
- The Global Compact on Refugees, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2018, includes the development of complementary pathways as a core objective to increase durable solution opportunities through the admission of refugees to third countries.
- To support this goal, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a coalition of partners launched a Three-Year Strategy on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways (2019–2021), which recommended establishing multi-stakeholder task forces specific to identified complementary pathways—labour, education and family reunification.
- Labour complementary pathways rely on close partnerships among governments, employers, international organizations and civil society groups, working together to identify and recruit talented refugees and to successfully settle them in their new jobs and homes.
- The 8 founding members of the Global Task Force on Refugee Labour Mobility bring a diverse range of experience with refugee resettlement and labour complementary pathways, and will be actively recruiting others with experience and interests in these initiatives to participate in Task Force activities.
- Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot helps skilled refugees overseas who can fill specific labour market needs to immigrate to Canada through existing economic programs. The pilot involves strong partnerships with a range of stakeholders, including 8 Canadian provinces and territories, communities, employers and non-government partner organizations.
- The Australian government, working in collaboration with Talent Beyond Boundaries, is piloting a program aimed at providing skilled refugees and their families with a pathway to live and work in Australia. Under this pilot program, launched in July 2021, endorsed Australian businesses will be able to utilize a labour agreement to sponsor skilled refugees to work in their business.