Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) is an organisation seeking to demonstrate that the hidden refugee talent pool offers a resource employers can use to fill skill gaps. While the global skills gap will cost the global economy $8.452 trillion in lost revenue by 2030, there are, for instance, five million Syrian refugees, many of them highly skilled, living in refugee camps or urban settings with limited or no prospects of local employment. Shortages are especially acute in industries experiencing rapid growth or change and in rural communities that need industries to keep local industries afloat.
TBB provides an alternative solution by increasing access to existing labour mobility pathways and creating new pathways for refugees to use to migrate for work. This allows for a transformative change to their income and ability to support family members (including extended family members through remittances) while also making an economic contribution to the communities into which they move.
TBB overcomes informational, legal, and financial barriers that prevent skilled refugees from filling vacancies in receiving countries, including Canada, Australia, and the UK. By moving to countries where their skills can be put to use, refugees and their families can regularize their legal status, feel safer, experience a significant gain in income, wellbeing and safety.
GIF’s investment of $230,000 was used to enable TBB to deploy this labour mobility solution by securing skilled employment and legal work permits in Canada and Australia for refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon. It also enabled TBB to map processes and disseminate practical learning to demonstrate the viability of labour mobility and encourage further uptake.
With GIF’s grant support, TBB made impressive strides towards making labour mobility pathways a viable solution for displaced people. TBB’s Talent Catalog, a database of refugees’ education, skills, and work histories, has more than 22,000 profiles of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon that more than 100 employers can access. At the end of GIFs funding in June 2020, 39 TBB candidates have received job offers and of those, 36 are men and three are women. Of these candidates, 15 have relocated with their families to Canada, Australia, and the UK, with the remaining 24 in the visa process. When accounting for family members, a total of 39 people have moved and 82 people are waiting for visas, representing a total of 143 people who have achieved a migration solution from TBB’s programming to date. Given applicants with job offers are able to migrate with family members, the benefits of the program in terms of providing a migration solution and access to rights has been gender balanced.
Due to GIF’s support, TBB was able to develop relationships with the governments of Australia and Canada and develop pilot programs. Under the Australian pilot program, TBB has worked with participating businesses to sponsor TBB candidates on Temporary Skills Shortage visas. In situations when a TBB candidate had a job offer but could not meet the stringent visa criteria due to issues such as language or work experience, the government offered to support the use of a limited number of Global Special Humanitarian Program visas. To date, under the Australian program, 16 refugees have secured job offers in Australia with eight having arrived with their families and begun working. When accounting for family members, 20 people in total have benefited from TBB’s partnership with the Australian government.
As part of their partnership with the government of Canada, TBB developed The Economic Mobility Pathways Project (EMPP). To date, 35 refugees have received job offers in Canada, 22 from Jordan and Lebanon and 13 from Kenya, and of these, when accounting for family members, 15 people have already relocated and are benefiting from TBB’s partnership with the Canadian government.
Following successful completion of these initial pilots, Australia announced the establishment of a Skilled Refugee Pilot for 100 refugees and their families in February 2020, and, in June 2020, Canada committed to expand its EMPP for up to 500 refugee applicants over the next two years. Both programs sit within the economic migration programs of the respective countries. In addition to these two country partnerships, the UK has committed to working with TBB on ways to make the UK tier 2 skilled visa system accessible to refugees.
A survey conducted with 15 TBB candidates relocated to Canada, UK, and Australia found that the average annual salary was $40,000 with 60 percent of the relocated candidates sending remittances to their families in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, or elsewhere.
TBB is also made ripples in the global policy landscape. In 2018, TBB secured commitments in the Global Compact on Refugees and its three-year strategy, as well as the Global Compact on Migration that recognise labour mobility for refugees and vulnerable migrants as a priority for states around the world. This was followed by the release of a white paper, The Promise of Labour Mobility, produced with GIF funding and launched at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019. Moreover, alongside UNHCR, TBB is also central to plans for a new Global Taskforce for Refugee Labour Mobility to further develop and promote labour mobility as an exciting innovation with the potential to greatly contribute to the alleviation of the refugee crisis.