By Sávio Coelho, Startup Societies Foundation
Refugees are one of the most controversial topics in modern politics. Not since the end of World War II has the world faced such an influx of inter-jurisdictional refugees. According to United Nations data, over 3 million Iraqis left their country since 2014, 3.3 million Sudanese are still living displaced because of the Sudan Civil War in 2013, 13 million Syrians (half of the country’s population) live scattered across the Middle East and Europe, and 600,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority had to leave their homes due to Buddhist persecution in Myanmar.
These refugees often have to leave their homes, jobs, relatives and assets to preserve their lives by going to a neighboring country or anyone that hosts them. Most of these refugees, however, do not live within host countries, but in refugee camps. Camps like the one in Dadaab, Kenya, have housed over 300,000 Somali refugees, for example. These camps are temporary reception zones for refugees, often established by the UN, while they await a resolution by the authorities of their host countries. We all know that life in these zones is difficult. Many of them do not have electricity, basic sanitation or even adequate infrastructure to receive these populations, such as homes, schools or hospitals. The fact that the authorities rarely give any drastic resolution is worsening the situation by confining the refugees in these camps for indeterminate periods.
Local populations and governments often see refugees as burdens because of tax expenditures to maintain the camps. Few realize that these fields are not dead zones but are full of human potential. Because of the lack of financial infrastructure and institutional conditions, these refugees often do anything they can to survive. The emergence of informal food markets within these camps, the establishment of parallel currencies (such as cigarettes, grains and drink), and the provision of informal services are common across such establishments.