Policy Research

Refugee Entrepreneurship, Business Ownership, and the Right to Work in Host Communities: A Legal Comparative Analysis

TrustLaw, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Latham & Watkins LLP, Winston & Strawn LLP, Jones Day, Ozalp Law Firm, and the Tent Partnership for Refugees | March 2021

Low and middle-income countries host approximately 85% of all refugees in the world. In many of these countries, refugees often face legal barriers to start and operate their own businesses – preventing them from building their livelihoods. Even in countries where refugees can start businesses, laws are often implemented inconsistently and to the detriment of refugees. However, we know that when governments permit refugees to work and own businesses, they stimulate local economies by spending more on goods and services, generating tax revenue, and creating new jobs for locals and other refugees. 

This report provides a legal overview of policies affecting refugee entrepreneurship in eight select countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, Turkey, and Uganda. The report, developed by law firms with global expertise, offers country-by-country insights on refugee laws and policies; enterprise development; and informal business activities. While each country analyzed in the report has seen an influx in its refugee population in recent years, these countries have varying degrees of formal laws, regulations, and policies governing the rights of refugees.

The research suggests that adopting policies focusing on refugee and host community collaboration will best serve host countries by encouraging refugee self-reliance and promoting positive outcomes for all stakeholders.