Pam King Sams
Dubai's Expo is helping to fund employment opportunities for refugees.
Talent Beyond Boundaries, which creates jobs for refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and other parts of the world, has benefited from the latest round of Expo Live funding.
Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB) was founded in 2016 and has built-up a database of over 20,000 refugees, 70 percent of whom are from the Middle East, with the goal of finding them jobs in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Noura Ismail, director, Middle East, at Talent Beyond Boundaries, told Arabian Business: “The point of TBB is we’re just trying to level the playing field. Employers all over the world hire and sponsor international employees every day, so why can’t they do the same for really qualified refugee talent as well?”
Ismail revealed that, as of last year, there were close to 67,000 refugees resettled through the United Nations out of 70 million refugees displaced globally.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were almost 745,000 refugees in Jordan at the end of 2019; while there were over 916,000 in Lebanon.
“When we first started this project, we received a lot of positive feedback, but it is a very bold and audacious project in many ways. We’re trying to change the mentality and the narrative around refugees with businesses and with governments and really have governments change their approach to immigration pathways,” explained Ismail.
TBB uses the data collected to match refugees with various job opportunities in the aforementioned three countries, assisting with the pre-interview process and, ultimately, working with companies and governments to ensure visa requirements are met.
“Many of them don’t have valid passports, they might not have certain documentation that normally would be required for a certain visa and we work with the governments to recognise that’s due to their refugee circumstances and overcome issues like that,” said Ismail.
“I think the idea was that no-one had ever looked as refugees as this hidden talent pool and while countries around the world are facing labour shortages which are impacting their economies, this is a group of people that we no longer need to focus just on their vulnerabilities, but look at them as assets and people that can contribute,” she added.
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The group has helped over 160 refugees with occupations ranging from mechanical engineering and IT, through to accountancy and, in light of the current global Covid-19 pandemic, a particular focus on recruiting nurses.
Hiring companies have included global giants Accenture, Delloite and Iris as well as a number of small and medium-sized outfits.
Ismail said: “The really great thing is that a lot of these companies are hiring again with us, which is testament to the model that it’s been a successful experience for them as well.”
How the Expo Live Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will look
Expo 2020 Dubai’s Expo Live programme has an allocation of up to $100,000 per project, as well as expert advice and the opportunity to share their ideas with a global audience, for those that offer creative solutions to pressing challenges that impact people’s lives, or help preserve the planet – or both. Organisers are looking for projects that would not reach their full potential without its support.
While TBB has been able to access 500 visas from Canada and a further 100 from Australia, Ismail admitted the grant from Expo Live has come at the perfect time as the world reels from the economic impacts of coronavirus, allowing the organisation to reach a further 10,000 refugees across Lebanon and Jordan as well as fund expansion plans into Turkey and Iraq.
She said: “While any support is really valuable to any organisation, this particularly came at such an unprecedented time with everything happening with Covid-19 and the pandemic.
“The support was just so critical in allowing us, not only to be able to stay afloat during this time, but also to keep our momentum and keep moving forward.”
And it is hoped, in the future, TBB will be able to include Middle East countries in the list of destinations for refugees looking for employment.
“In the Middle East it would be ideal for us to be able to match them with companies. We haven’t begun exploring our model with governments yet but we would definitely like to,” said Ismail.
Expo 2020 was delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but is scheduled to start in almost exactly a year (October 1, 2021) and run for six months through to March 31, 2022.