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Japan – Refugees given jobs instead of charity

28 October 2013

With applications for refugee status reaching record levels, a number of Japanese businesses are providing employment and training to people forced to flee their home country due to war and persecution, with emphasis on genuine vocational opportunities rather than charity, reports the Japan Times.

With growing skills shortages and an aging population, companies in Japan have found it more beneficial to both themselves and the refugee to provide work opportunities rather than give hand outs. All of which can be done without the refugee entering Japan.

Mohammad Mawaheb Seraj Eddin, a 26-year-old Syrian, is one of the refugees engaged in such a program. He left his home country for Turkey in June 2012 amid the intensifying civil war between the government forces led by President Bashar Assad and rebel groups.

But life wasn’t easy in Turkey and he had a tough time finding the means to support himself. Having left behind his studies in computer engineering at Allepo University, he found it extremely hard to land any sort of job, not only those requiring professional skills but also manual labour, because he couldn’t speak Turkish.

Around that time he was introduced to a Japanese Internet technology firm through Shotaro Yamanaka, a representative of the Japanese private organisation World Link, which does what it can to support refugees via the Internet.

While staying in Istanbul and now in Belgrade, Mr Seraj Eddin worked as a freelance computer programmer for Vesper, a company based in the Ginza district in Tokyo. He started out as a paid intern in March and now works eight hours online every weekday, earning roughly the local minimum wage while staying in accommodations provided by a Serbian NGO.

“This job gave me a reason to survive when I felt I was hopeless,” he said. “It has given me a chance to build experience rather than just (providing) support. I am so happy.”

Learning from the first successful IT project, Mr Yamanaka hopes to connect more refugees with businesses and provide chances for them to enhance their skills.

He said: “I just could not think of his situation as somebody else’s problem when I got to know him through a social-networking site. We want to create a mechanism through which companies will not just give out financial support but can also benefit from hiring refugees and generate profit.”

In addition to their IT business, World Link has so far connected 12 Syrian refugees in Turkey, Jordan and the Czech Republic with Japanese nationals wanting to learn Arabic or English online at a cost of USD 10 per hour.

Mr Yamanaka added: “In this way, people can directly learn about the situations in Syria by speaking with their teachers and help them out while receiving language services wherever they are. He hopes it will be easier for ordinary students or businesspeople to participate in programs to support those in need.

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