Special Jurisdictions

Politas is helping make the refugee cities vision a reality. Through projects in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Michael Castle Miller is the CEO of Politas Consulting and serves as the Executive Director of Refugee Cities.

Presently, Michael is familiar with special jurisdictions in places like China, the United Arab Emirates, and the Dominican Republic. Places that have been used as ‘laboratories for testing innovative policies when progress at a national level is stalled.’

Refugee Cities is an NGO and ultimately dedicated to creating special-status settlements in which displaced people can legally work. Access to employment provides refugees with economic independence. As a consequence securing jobs helps with refugee integration in the economic and social development of their host countries. 

For example in relation to Syrian refugees, the UNHCR has previously reported on the restrictions that inhibit refugees attempting to access employment. Due to a lack of ‘passports and proof of legal entry status, many were precluded from having jobs’ UNHCR . This situation only improved after authorities in Jordan removed the requirement.

What happens when this is not possible?

Through his position with Politas consultancy, Michael Castle-Miller works towards developing laws and institutions for zones around the world. Working towards creating zones that are

‘dynamic hubs of opportunity that drive progress nationwide. Pursuing the same set of traits, refugee cities could be rare havens of freedom, hope, and security for the world’s migrants and would open the door for future nationwide integration efforts.’ Pacific Council


Essentially, the Refugee Cities concept presents a potential solution to the issues that displaced populations face. For instance, removing barriers and speeding up the process for refugees who are attempting to access their local jobs market. Refugee cities would be a place where refugees can develop their potential. A place that would facilitate communities to navigate past political standstills over integration efforts in specific countries.




Michael Castle-Miller suggests that the ‘UN promotes three “durable solutions”  for refugees, which include voluntary repatriation to the refugee’s home country, resettlement to a third country, or integration into the host country’.

Special-status settlements

If you are visualising the Hunger Games and other dystopian fiction when imagining special-status settlements in which displaced people can legally work, then instead recognise that special economic zones are not new in the history of society’s development and equally places that are simply different to their surrounding areas through how they are used.

In just this way, SEZs (special economic zones) can exist for a variety of purposes, but above all, they exist to increase trade, investment, and jobs. Geographically they are created in an area termed as a zone. Functioning within a country’s national borders, without being bound by that host country’s existing business and trade laws.

CIIP (Competitive Industries and Innovation Program) mobilise global expertise. They catalyse investments in support of transformational projects and frontier knowledge initiatives. Their review of special economic zones is very helpful in illustrating the extensive number of SEZs that exist in the world today.

From: Special Economic Zones An Operational Review of Their Impacts by CIIP


Incentives are sometimes used within these zones. One example is being granted lower tax for a period of time. Aiming to encourage companies to be attracted to participating in trade and investment. Often appealing to foreign direct investment. For example, New York’s Navy Yard in Brooklyn is considered to be one of the first modern zones. It occupied 92 acres and was followed by zones in Seattle, San Francisco and beyond.

From: Special Economic Zones An Operational Review of Their Impacts by CIIP


Essentially, they were export focused. The exchange of goods was accompanied by storage facilities and the legislation required to meet legal requirements.

Common Objectives

Shannon Free Zone in Ireland was the first European Zone. Within twenty years they had established across the world including India, Malaysia, and Africa. Their evolution in keeping with their flows of knowledge and trade. Special economic zones have rules and structures. For instance, stimulating exports is a very common objective of many of the policies associated with these zones.

‘Innovation comes out of great human ingenuity and very personal passions’ Megan Smith.

HTiL is a digital humanitarian initiative, proactively and collaboratively at the intersect between humanitarianism and technology. MyInform is for informing, empowering and serving refugees, support providers, and our operational project partners on the ground.

We have shared other innovative ideas for helping displaced populations. For example, onsite coding schools in settlements, policy experiments in Niger, the Core Humanitarian Standard on quality and accountability. HTiL has highlighted the training in video advocacy used by refugees and host youth in Africa to share their stories.

HTiL are equally pleased to highlight Refugee Cities as another productive and ground breaking example of work being done towards helping displaced populations. Ultimately, like HTiL, RC is an initiative designed to improve the lives of people who are considered part of the current refugee crisis but a group we both recognise will remain a permanent part of our human landscape.  We both seek to address this huge and generally undervalued human resource, whose full engagement in society we recognise together is an imperative if we are to create a truly inclusive and sustainable global prosperity. HTiL hope that eventually our MyInform SaaS solution of Chat and Hub will play an active part in the work of Refugee Cities. 


Read Refugee Cities Can Unleash Economic Progress by Michael Castle Miller

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