Recovery, Renewal, Resilience

Lessons for Resilience

Consider the lessons learned from the inclusion of refugees in social protection systems during COVID-19
Learning lessons

A current research project, by the Overseas Development Institute, is examining social protection (SP) measures employed during the pandemic in LMICs. The project is producing a series of working papers. One paper examines the inclusion of refugees in government-led SP and the “alignment and integration of cash assistance to refugees and government social protection”. The paper evaluates the effectiveness of social protection responses across four countries in terms of: “Timeliness; coverage adequacy; and level adequacy (value of benefit)”. It also offers the emerging lessons from the study and initial policy recommendations. Consider:

Lessons on the drivers of effective government social protection response

  • The maturity of SP systems and pre-existing local and state capacities directly impacted how effectively SP programmes met the needs of refugees during COVID
  • Targeting criteria that evaluates eligibility based on risk of vulnerability could be more effective, timely and suitable during a crisis rather than traditional criteria such as length of residency or status
  • Benefit levels of government systems are unlikely to be sufficient for refugees’ needs, as these are typically higher than those of nationals and require very careful consideration. The main challenge identified when setting benefit levels which include refugees during the pandemic is that governments are “faced with two competing objectives: (1) preventing social tension and unfairness between population groups” (by varying benefit levels between refugees and nationals); and (2) “ensuring that everyone can meet their basic needs”

Policy recommendations for protecting refugees during a crisis

  • Conduct a national socio-economic survey, to include data on refugees’ needs, to develop an overview of the needs of the population across the country. This can enable more effective social protection programme design that effectively meets the needs of everyone
  • A review of registration processes can highlight barriers to access for refugees (e.g. in terms of the documents required to register for programmes). Where this is not possible, governments can “draw on international/national/local humanitarian actors’ databases of refugee populations” to swiftly target them with support during crisis
  • Hosting governments could consider “integrating refugees into social insurance” (e.g. those with work permits) which may reduce political or public opposition as those receiving benefits will be contributing to national insurance
  • Careful consideration of benefit levels and trade-offs between “politically greater acceptability but possibly lower effectiveness” in terms of meeting refugees needs is essential

Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)

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Consider how the vaccine will be delivered to unregistered people
Crisis planning

While the vaccine programme may be in its early stage in many countries, thought is required on how to access people who are not on any social services list or registered in any location. This includes homeless people, illegal immigrants, stateless people and refugees who are not in the 'system'. Excluding such people from the programme risks the virus continuing to affect them, and then spreading into other parts of society. Consider:

  • Take a national perspective on how to involve people who are marginalised from mainstream public services in the vaccine programme
  • Establish who is responsible for vaccinating unregistered people
  • Decide whether all vaccination centres are open to vaccinating unregistered people
  • How partners that have strong community links can disseminate the vaccine message to unregistered people
  • Assess the consequences of unregistered people not being vaccinated
  • When the first vaccination of an unregistered person should take place and a target time frame in which to vaccinate all unregistered people
  • Identify challenges for the vaccination programme in vaccinating unregistered people
  • Recognise that un-registered people may be fearful or hesitant to come forward to receive the vaccine:
    • Consider a moratorium/amnesty on those who regard themselves to be illegally resident in the country to receive the vaccine
    • Work with partners and external organisations who have links to un-registered people to communicate that they can register to receive the vaccine without fear of immigration enforcement activities
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