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I have very conflicted feelings about my home country’s treatment of refugees. Australia’s current immigration policy harshly punishes people seeking asylum and protection in our country by boat. As a result, over the summer I decided to spend my time exploring these issues further by undertaking my AFE at the Washington D.C. headquarters of a relatively new organization, Talent Beyond Boundaries (TBB). TBB is an independent non-profit organization working to open up labor mobility as a complementary pathway to traditional refugee resettlement. They have a small dedicated team of twelve paid staff, along many pro bono supporters and volunteers, working in the United States, Lebanon, Jordan, Canada, Morocco and Australia.

TBB’s work is specifically focused on labor mobility, aiming to open up international legal pathways to connect skilled refugees with employers around the world who are searching for talent. Whilst many groups have previously spoken about the potential role of labor mobility as a solution for refugees, no-one has ever sought to implement these pathways – until now. TBB is the first organization in the world working to facilitate access to international employment pathways for refugees.

There are a number of barriers that prevent refugees from participating in the international labor market  such as lack of access to information about international employment, financial barriers to visa application processes and travel, and missing documentation, right through to a lack of awareness in the business community about the breadth of talent in refugee communities. As a result, in 2016 TBB launched a demonstration project in Jordan and Lebanon aimed at identifying and addressing these barriers, whilst developing the systems needed to tackle them on a broader scale.

My internship provided me with a fantastic opportunity to get a sense of the rewards and challenges of working on an innovative policy project. My primary task during the internship was to develop a matrix, which analyzes and recommends criteria and considerations for TBB to utilize when assessing suitability of countries for labor mobility pathways. This included thinking about a broad range of factors, including durability of the scheme, labor skills match and the broader enabling policy environment. I also participated in meetings with stakeholders from a number of different countries interested in the scheme, to consider how program might work in their contexts. And this has provided me with a number of ideas which I am hoping to feed into my MA capstone project his year.

In addition, as TBB is a very new organization, during my internship I also had the opportunity to assist with some more strategic work and discussions around TBB’s Theory of Change / Impact Pathway, and what models the organization might take in the future. In addition, being in Washington DC enabled me to attend a range of relevant public events, including a conference on migration policy and the launch of the 2018 Global Peace Index.

Overall, the internship was a really valuable experience. It exposed me to a new policy area, whilst re-confirming my interest in continuing to work in the multi-faceted space of policy and advocacy. In particular, I enjoyed the connection of this policy/advocacy work to TBB’s on-the-ground pilot project in Lebanon/Jordan. I am immensely grateful to the Global Studies Department for the financial support provided to enable me to undertake this opportunity.