Why the Refugee Crisis Is an Economic Issue for the G20

A few hundred miles away from where the G20 Labour and Finance Ministers are meeting in Turkey, the body of a young Syrian boy washed ashore. The images shocked the nation's people and indeed people throughout the world. Three year old Aylan Kurdi, his five year old brother Galip and his mother Rehan all died trying to reach safety from the war in Syria. The tragedy is that with family in Canada there was an alternate option. For many G20 countries the world's worst refugee crisis since WWII is not recognized as an economic problem, which defines the mandate of the collection of the 20 nations of the world representing 85 percent of the global economy, 76 percent of global trade, and two-thirds of the world's population.

This year, Turkey hosts the G20 and two million Syrian refugees who have been given safe haven. Enormous numbers have been welcomed into homes and communities throughout the country and given water, food, clothing and work. The Turkish Presidency has issued a leadership call, a government's group diplomatic cable to Presidents and Prime Ministers around the world for action on refugees. It is yet to be heard. There is no doubt G20 Labour and Finance Minsters are meeting at a bleak time. World trade suffered its biggest fall since 2009 in the first half of this year. Jobs are being shed in emerging economies and social unrest is growing while in many developed economies, youth unemployment is becoming structural with signs of social breakdown. Informal work is increasing. Inequality is increasing. The wage share for millions of workers has failed to rebound since the onset of the global financial crisis with stagnation and attacks on minimum wages and collective bargaining reinforcing family poverty. Social protection is under attack at a time when desperately needed. Along with the worst refugee crisis since WWII, climate instability is trending, and freedom of association and democratic space is shrinking. Our global economic inter-dependence cannot ignore the threats of conflict and climate change, both of which require commitments which are economic as well as political, where we need to raise the floor of living and working conditions in every single country around the world. But as critical as these issues are there seems today an empty soul in these discussions.

Humanity demands that commitments to resettle refugees and asylum seekers should include affording them the right to work in the formal economy and granting them full social, political and cultural rights, as well. We urge the G20 Leaders to take hold of this issue and not to sit back and watch governments be complicit in the loss of dignity for our people and the deaths of refugees. From Canada to Hungary, borders are being closed, which threatens humanity. In Europe, the Dublin Accord must be re-thought so refugees are not forced on journeys across Europe to try and reach countries offering decent living like Germany and Sweden - like the one that killed 71 Syrians in a old chicken truck last week.

All EU and industrialized economies countries should support the social protection measures needed and increase their resettlement quota to share the burden more equally between countries. The reality is the burden of 80 percent of the world's refugee population is in developing countries.

In Iceland people are pushing their government take in Syrian refugees as more than 11,000 Icelanders offer to open their homes to the people fleeing the conflict. Governments could do more to end the conflict in Syria and Libya. Seventy percent of refugees that landed in Greece last month were Syrian. If we don't stop the barrel bombs and chemical attacks these people are fleeing from they won't stop coming. As leaders fall out of step with their people, they put at risk their own political future. The horror of the refugee crisis could lift the stature of the G20 if there is a collective response to a global crisis that is about people as well as economies.