The plight of refugees is harrowing enough, with most fleeing from some of the most horrendous circumstances possible. Despite the harrowing circumstances they are leaving, they come with a range of skills and talents that they simply want to put to use in building a new life for themselves.

Unfortunately, barriers exist that prevent them from doing so, with many waiting years for an asylum decision. It’s a wait that leaves too many struggling to find meaningful ways to fill their day, which in turn marginalizes their attempt to integrate into their new home.

A recent study explored the situation in the Teeside region of the United Kingdom, and found that people don’t simply want something to pass the time, but rather to be kept busy with a purpose. The research describes the inherent frustration of un-challenging occupations, such as watching television, that do little but fill the time.

A human right to work

Having access to work is considered a human right, due in large part to its potential to allow us to flourish, experience satisfaction and fulfil our potential. As with people from all walks of life, meaningful work provides a wide range of physical and mental health benefits, while also helping to maintain the skills of the individual, and help them to integrate into their host community.

Indeed, such gainful employment can help to advance the individual beyond an identity as an asylum seeker, and towards a meaningful member of the community. So how can this best be achieved?

Research from Stanford University attempted to use AI to better integrate refugees into their host communities. The study found that economic self-sufficiency required a range of things, such as the education level of the individual, their knowledge of English, and the location they settled in their new home country. This translated into some refugees having much higher chances of settling than others.

The researchers developed an algorithm that was able to assign placements for refugees based upon this data, with the assignments giving them the best chance of integrating. Indeed, the researchers believe it increases their chances of finding a job by up to 70%.

“As one looks at the refugee crisis globally, it’s clear that it’s not going away any time soon and that we need research-based policies to navigate through it,” they say. “Our hope is to generate a policy conversation about the processes governing the resettlement of refugees, not just on the national level in the United States but internationally as well.”

Read the rest of Adi Gaskell’s article at Forbes