MICHIGAN, US: Post the announcement by Prime Minister Imran Khan to allow the Afghans here to open bank accounts my mind started drawing parallels between Pakistan and Ethiopia.
As the latter’s current positive trend of success in dealing with refugees is an example for what Pakistan can expect in the next few months.
With a refugee population of 900,000, Ethiopia currently hosts Africa’s second-largest refugee population. On a recent visit to Ethiopia, UN’s Filippo Grandi commended Ethiopia’s philanthropic efforts in welcoming refugees and finding creative ways to support them.
Grandi praised the Ethiopian government’s consistent efforts to stabilise and give refugees a source of independence while keeping an eye on host communities’ needs.
In January, Ethiopia passed a law allowing refugees to work and live outside of camps. This was in an effort to make them more independent and to reduce dependence on foreign aid.
Refugees were encouraged to seek work permits, which would allow them to contribute to Ethiopia’s economy while becoming more self-sustainable. This reduces strain on host communities while benefiting Ethiopia’s economy.
Pakistan currently hosts more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees making it one of the largest refugee holding nations in the world. That’s 1.4 million ripe and un-harvested opportunities to develop our economy.
This is only possible when refugees are provided resources to contribute to the economy. Permission to open bank accounts will allow refugees to access better jobs and pay taxes.
Contrary to popular belief, allowing refugees to participate in the formal economy is a win-win situation for both the Pakistani government and Afghan refugees.
It allows refugees to contribute to the economy, allowing them to become more self-reliant which, in turn, eases pressure on Pakistan’s economy. This could be the move to push Pakistan up on the list of developing countries as in Imran Khan’s own words, “This should have been done a long time ago”.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2019.