Constrained by the time-consuming asylum process and facing discrimination from employers, refugees find it hard to thrive in Britain.
In February, the government announced it was halfway towards fulfilling David Cameron’s pledge to resettle 20,000 refugees in the UK by 2020. But resettlement is only half the story.
Razan Alsous fled from Syria to Yorkshire in 2012. While she was lucky to have her application accepted in under a month, Razan couldn’t find employment despite having two degrees and speaking four languages. “When things got bad in Syria, I thought my qualifications would secure me a decent job if I had to leave,” she says. “But when you just wait in the job centre with no offers, it feels like being stabbed in the heart.”
Razan was driven to starting her own business, using a £2,500 Start Up Loan to buy equipment to make Halloumi-style cheese. Yorkshire Dama Cheese, is quickly becoming famous for its tasty product, captivating story and is turning over around £100,000 annually. HRH Princess Anne recently opened her new premises.
Faith and Razan’s stories are not unusual. British history is littered with examples of entrepreneurial success that are now household names in our everyday lives. What we’ve found is that refugees all share the virtues of courage, resilience and determination – key traits required by any entrepreneur. Some are naturally entrepreneurial and have previous experience. For others, the experience of escaping from their home country, persevering through the asylum process, then facing discrimination in the labour market intensifies their entrepreneurial capabilities and pushes them towards self-employment.
Refugee entrepreneurs also play a role in boosting inclusion and integration. Faith gives children in social care work experience and pocket money. She also mentors young women studying in local fashion schools, showing them sewing techniques and business basics, while they use design software to sketch her designs.
For all these reasons, it is imperative we no longer waste refugees’ potential. In our report, ‘Starting afresh: How entrepreneurship is transforming the lives of resettled refugees’, we call on government to work with business and the third sector to create a new strategy, where entrepreneurship will be accessible to all interested newcomers.
Meanwhile, businesses big and small can do more, by providing placements, workspace, mentoring and other valuable guidance for refugee entrepreneurs. And with a little time, there’s no reason why entrepreneurial success stories like Faith’s and Razan’s can’t be the norm.
Written By: Matt Smith
First Published 06.04.18: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/the-uk-must-embrace-refugees-entrepreneurial-potential_uk_5ac5f500e4b01f556d5658ca?dm_i=V6Y,5KL2J,IH7OGR,LMYVK,1