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And what if the next Steve Jobs were a refugee ?

Imagine New York submerged with a sudden flood of water. Would everyone leave their homes in a mad rush in the same way that so many Syrians, Yemenis and Venezuelans did?

This is a pertinent question because this type of scenario is alas not science fiction, it’s simply science… 

Living as a refugee; them, you, me…

The latest report from the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change group of experts (IPCC) about the oceans and the cryosphere [1], published in September 2019, indicates that in fact 280 million people may be forced to leave their homes due to melting glaciers and the rising level of the oceans by 2050, that is to say in less than 30 years. This is a direct consequence of global warming. Knowing that these figures take into account the most optimistic hypothesis (which is more and more unrealistic) according to which the rise in atmospheric temperatures would be limited to 2° C compared to the pre-industrial era.

Also taken from this report, 1.35 billion people living in coastal zones [2], isolated states, and high mountain regions will be directly impacted by these phenomena! 

We can clearly see that the problem of these forced displacements will become structural; embedded in the reality of citizens of the five continents, including those of the  “rich countries”. The war in Syria (roots came also in the beginning from climate impact) has shown us the impact that one country can bring about on the rest of the world. The climate crisis is a harbinger of far-reaching consequences that will make us all  inter-dependent. It doesn’t take a vivid imagination to suppose that the status of refugee could easily become someone close to you or me. We can easily imagine that the destiny of these people is not so far from our own, we could even cross paths with them one day! 

So, statistically,  due to these numbers there’s a high chance that the “next” Steve Jobs will emerge from amongst the 1.35 billion people who will be displaced! 

Daily tragedies

Over these last weeks, lots of you have no doubt noticed, perhaps even been shocked by the fires which have ravaged the West Coast of the United States with exceptional intensity. More than 2 million hectares have burned since the middle of August and this has caused the global emissions of carbon to skyrocket in that region and has forced thousands and  thousands of people to evacuate. 

Such tragic events no doubt have the power to snatch away a few moments of our daily happiness, to make projects, innovate, optimism and the will to make a difference, and to remind us that this reality, which sometimes has seemed so far away, is manifesting in our own back yard.

California fire - Copyright 2020 The Associated Press

This is the daily picture for almost 80 million people [3] in the world (twice the figure for 2010!), all of them obliged to leave their homes from one day to the next to escape war, violence or poverty. To these people we add each year 25 million individuals [4] who are the victims of natural disasters (but who do not benefit from the status of refugee).

Going digital and remote work to integrate refugees in the world

History has left numerous examples which illustrate the benefits of the integration of refugees and their creative energy. The very first multinational company in the world - the Dutch United East India Company - was  created by a refugee, Dirk Van Os, in Amsterdam, cited as a refugee from Europe in the 16th century during the religious wars at that time. This city, with one of the most important ports in the world was home to the resistance of King Philip II. Amsterdam welcomes a good number of protestants from other provinces, Flanders, France and the Iberian Peninsula, all fleeing Spanish authority to find calm and tolerance and security. Less than a century later, Amsterdam was elevated to the status of the richest city in the world, at the heart of world maritime trade.

Other examples attesting to the benefits of the integration of refugees:

- 40% of companies listed on Fortune 500, in the United States, were founded by refugees or by their children (the Boston Globe 2016).

- $344 million have been invested in Turkey  by refugees who created companies (World Bank 2016).

- 400,000 of the 1.2 million refugees who arrived in Germany since 2015 now have a job, according to a report from the federal agency for employment dated 2019.

In the 21st-century propelled by the digital revolution and unprecedented technological progress, refugee camps are created every day. Amongst them there are those where the conditions are, despite everything, dignified and it is absolutely possible for young adults to access society via the digital world. What is lacking for these 7.7 million refugees who are of age to access further education (we know that only 3% of them are accessing it, and that’s the best case scenario [5]) . We need agile structures that can connect this young population who have a thirst for knowledge and innovation to competent technologies, working in close cooperation with international authorities responsible for accompanying these displaced populations, notably the UNHCR.

It’s high time that we offered these populations more than something to eat and rudimentary care, even a basic education which although necessary doesn’t allow them to flourish. Refugees are in this world, our same world which tomorrow will become more and more a world of refugees. Why then don’t we truly integrate them, without delay? We are living in an incredible era where there is access to skills and to work that can be done from a distance. It wouldn’t take much! 

Sofiane Ammar is CHAMS Founder

Chams is an international NGO based in France (Marseille), with an ambition to empower refugees in Africa and the Middle East by teaching entrepreneurship through coding and remote job soft skills. The result ultimately is to connect them with job opportunities in the ICT and Digital sector globally. It’s a low volume and high touch approach bringing selected refugees to be a role model for their communities. We plan to train 10,000 young coders from the refugees camps run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the host communities through a global program in the Middle East and Africa. We aim to establish a consortium of partners, donors and supporters who want to provide life changing education and job opportunities.Cham’s vision to contribute massively to the reduction of unemployment among refugees and host communities by reinforcing their employability in the Middle East, Africa and globally. Follow us on Instagram and Linkedin

[1] « Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate », GIEC (IPCC), 2019, available on website

[2] The European Environment Agency has published numerous maps demonstrating the observed rise in the level of the oceans as well as its impact on the European sides in the decades to come (having as reference the IPCC report), with in particular floods and displacement of populations. Study from December 2019, available on the website.

[3] « Forced displacement in 2019: global trends », UNHCR, p.2, juin 2020.

[4] Source : IDMC (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre), Geneva, April 2020, cited on Twitter in particular by François Gemenne, researcher at the University of Liège, specialist in the links between climate change and migration, professor at Sciences-Po Paris and member of the IPCC.

[5] « Global report 2019 », UNHCR, p.225, June 2020.

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