In our modern era of clickbait headlines and 280 character debate, refugees, like so many other marginalized communities, often suffer from negative stereotyping and popular misconceptions. 

NaTakallam is committed to unpacking facts from fiction. As we seek to reshape and reclaim narratives about refugee populations, promoting understanding through truth-based discussions is a vital part of our mission.

NaTakallam’s tutors, teachers, and translators come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds – each with unique skills and experiences that are misconstrued by simplistic generalizations.

This World Refugee Month, NaTakallam hopes that employers and communities around the world will continue to work towards a better understanding of the rich contribution refugees can offer their cities and workplaces.

Myth 1: Most refugees restart their lives comfortably in new countries.

Fact: Less than 1% of refugees are resettled into new countries.

Resettlement is still a rare phenomenon, even though millions are eligible. In 2020, resettlement numbers were at a record low according to an UNHCR report. Even if successful, the resettlement process often takes years, and the journey of starting life anew in a foreign country can be extremely hard, especially in the face of new legal and educational systems, foreign languages and cultural norms.

NaTakallam works with many skilled refugees who are often stuck in limbo, cut off from the local labor market, in camps, or other transit circumstances. Therefore, each session makes important and meaningful contributions to their livelihoods and their overall sense of belonging.

Sources: UN, UNHCR, Immigration Forum.

Myth 2: Most refugees flee to the US, Europe and Australia

Fact: Over 80% of displaced persons are in countries neighboring the conflict from which they fled.

Contrary to common belief and misleading headlines, only a small fraction of resettled refugees are hosted in developed countries. Though there are currently an estimated 26 million refugees in the world, the US 2021 immigration cap remains at 15,000. In 2020, the entire EU accepted less than 200,000 refugees. Most are forced into limbo states, with no legal residency or work status. 

NaTakallam works predominantly with displaced people who have fled to developing countries neighboring the conflict from which they fled. Top host countries include Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, which currently host 3.7 million, 2.9 million, and 1.4 million refugees respectively         (according to UNHCR).

Sources: UNHCRAmnesty, Immigration Forum

Myth 3: Refugees are mostly adult males.

Fact: More than half the world’s refugees are under 18.

Most refugees are not men. According to UNHCR, by the beginning of 2020, 30-34 million of the world’s 80 million forcibly displaced people were under 18. Thirteen million of these children are refugees, and almost 1.5 million seek asylum. About 19.4 million of them were displaced due to violence and conflict in their home country. 

This demographic breakdown holds true for almost every regional crisis. Though children make up about a third of the global population, they constitute 50% of the world’s refugees. This dynamic is a significant concern, as contemporary child migration is often inhumane, disregarded, and usually unregulated.

Source(s): UNHCR, UNICEF.

Myth 4: Many refugees have smartphones so they must be well off.

Fact: Smartphones are a lifeline for refugees, not a luxury.

For refugees, smartphones provide access to essential and potentially life-saving information. Smartphones are used to find food, shelter and assistance, navigate new areas, communicate with loved ones, and even to earn a living through virtual work. Smartphones are so essential to refugees’ lives that often up to a third of disposable income is spent to ensure connectivity. 

In the era of what some have dubbed “the connected refugee,” NaTakallam provides opportunities to refugees, to work as language tutors, teachers and translators for users worldwide. 

Sources: UNHCR, Forbes, GSMA

Myth 5: Most refugees live in camps.

Fact: Nearly 80% of refugees live in urban areas.

Contrary to the frequent images of sprawling refugee camps in media outlets, an estimated 78% of refugees live in urban areas. This has presented a new set of challenges: resources are often less concentrated, humanitarian assistance less plentiful and individuals can more easily miss vital information and aid.

NaTakallam works with displaced persons in both urban areas and refugee camps, to ensure that no one is marginalized due to their current circumstances. We leverage technology in a way that ensures accessibility for all users. 

Sources: UN Refugees, UNHCR, The Brookings Institute

Myth 6: Refugee influxes ruin economies and communities.

Fact: Studies show that refugees can have positive fiscal and social impacts.

The notion that admitting refugees will ruin a host country’s economy is rooted in false economic beliefs. Over time, it has been shown that refugees actually add more value to the economy than the initial cost of resettlement – if they are granted the right to work legally. Moreover, studies show that low-skilled foreign workers and low-skilled domestic workers tend to complement each other, rather than compete. In the US, refugees add billions to the economy and experts assert that they will play a vital role in helping economies recover after the pandemic.

What is more, contrary to political narratives, studies consistently show that refugees are less likely to commit crimes, to engage in “antisocial” behavior, or to be arrested. In fact, higher immigration is generally associated with much lower crime rates. 

Many of NaTakallam’s displaced tutors are barred from employment due to legal restrictions – leaving them vulnerable to black market, unsafe work. NaTakallam allows refugees to make an income legitimately, and safely, regardless of their location.

Sources: Immigration Forum, University of Oxford, Business Insider, Economic Research Forum

Myth 7: Refugee resettlement quotas remain the same or increase each year.

Fact: Resettlement numbers reached a record low in 2020.

Each year, resettlement quotas are subject to change. In 2020, the UNHCR resettled about 22,770 refugees, which represents only a third of the refugees resettled in 2019, and less than a fifth of those resettled in 2016.  According to the UNHCR, this figure was the lowest in two decades. Undoubtedly, the unprecedented impacts of the pandemic contributed to a decrease in resettlements; however, the statistic still helps to illustrate the precarity of many refugees’ situations. Equally troubling, the US froze resettlement and humanitarian assistance to refugees during the pandemic.

By leveraging the digital economy, NaTakallam enables tutors and translators from displaced backgrounds to earn livelihoods through language services – particularly during the pandemic.

Sources: UNHCRUN

Myth 8: Refugees never return home to their native countries.

Fact: Most refugees would prefer to go home, and many do.

Common narratives paint refugees as “economic migrants”, who come to profit from the opportunities of more developed countries – and never return to theirs. However, in actual fact, this is not the case. According to various surveys done across the world, most refugees are understandably reluctant to go home when the situation remains unsafe. However, in a study of about 9 million Syrian refugees across the world, 73% said they would return home if the conditions were right.

Another report showed that in 2019 alone, 46,500 refugees voluntarily returned to the Central African Republic. What refugees seek is physical safety, dependable work, and sustainable housing, and the majority agree that if this were available in their home country, they would return. NaTakallam enables refugees to have reliable, consistent work as language tutors and translators in Arabic, Armenian, English, French, Kurdish, Persian, Spanish and more. 

Sources: UN refugee statistics, Washington Post, Relief WebThe National

Myth 9: Refugees don’t make for good employees.

Fact: Refugees can be a long-term economic advantage for companies.

Employers say it best: when it comes to refugees, “they come to work and get the job done.” Recent research from the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) highlights that in addition to being hardworking, refugees often stay with their employers for longer and speak a foreign language – a highly desirable skill for any global company. 

Furthermore, in the Tent Partnership for Refugees report (also backed by the FPI), many businesses who hired refugees stated that they were among their most dedicated workers. Employee turnover rates were much lower among refugee employees than the general population – thus, saving businesses money. 

Sources: UN, Fiscal Policy Institute, Business Insider, Tent Partnership for Refugees

Myth 10: “There’s nothing I can do to help refugees”

Fact: Each person can make a difference in supporting refugees

Everyone can do something. Whether it’s welcoming refugees into your community, raising awareness or supporting refugee-centered companies, you have the power to make an impact beyond donations.

And if you’re looking to directly support refugee livelihoods, consider bringing NaTakallam into your home, classroom or office setting, for your language-learning, cultural exchange or translation needs. Change a life, one refugee at a time.

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