Transforming lives of resettled refugees through entrepreneurship
From a report by The Centre for Entrepreneurs
Britain has always been a safe haven for refugees. For centuries we have provided shelter to those who have needed it most. But upon arriving to Britain, all-too-often we are failing to help refugees rebuild their lives. Despite a warm welcome, bureaucracy, discrimination in the labour market, and a lack of support has left too many new arrivals languishing. Many refugees in the UK are unemployed, and of those who have found employment, many are underemployed for their qualifications – a terrible waste of human talent.
How can we best help them start afresh?
We cannot be the engineers of their lives, but we can offer refugees the opportunity and the means to shape their own. One major way that refugees have taken control of their lives is through entrepreneurship.
Every refugee’s experience is different, but they all share the virtues of courage, resilience and determination – key traits required by any entrepreneur. Many are naturally entrepreneurial and have run successful businesses before having to flee. For others, the experience of escaping from their home country, enduring refugee camps and persevering through the asylum process intensifies their entrepreneurial capabilities and pushes them towards self-employment.
Each generation of refugees has made significant contributions to the UK, and their collective impact can still be found on the high street today. Michael Marks of Marks & Spencer and Montague Burton of Burton Group were among the Jews who fled the Russian pogroms in the late nineteenth century. In the 1950s, Lakshmishankar and Shanta Pathak fled Kenya and set up the much-loved Patak’s curry brand. Ugandan Asian refugees are to thank for bringing Domino’s Pizza to the UK and for launching Tilda rice. The list goes on.
Refugee entrepreneurs also play a crucial role in boosting social inclusion. Migrant and refugee-founded businesses provide employment opportunities for new arrivals, who are often pushed out of the formal labour market. They also act as a bridge between migrant communities and wider society, facilitating integration.
Starting a business is never easy. It is especially hard in a new, unfamiliar country. Some organisations are already pioneering tailored startup support in the form of refugee entrepreneurship programmes. Socially-minded corporates and generous philanthropists have been quick to support such initiatives. But more can be done. In doing so, we must not lose sight of the ultimate purpose of our endeavours: when refugees have lost almost everything, the greatest gift we can provide is a new start in life.
There are some inspiring case studies and well researched statistics in the report which then goes on to recommend that working with government, the Centre for Entrepreneurs convenes philanthropists, the business community and the third sector to create a ‘Refugee Entrepreneurship Programme’.
This would involve:
A new refugee resettlement strategy that positions entrepreneurship and self-employment as outcomes equal to employment.
A Refugee Entrepreneur Development Fund to rollout refugee entrepreneurship programmes across the UK. This may make use of philanthropic, private and public funds.
Skills mapping - introducing introduce a skills mapping exercise during the asylum application process.
Financial inclusion - ensuring refugee entrepreneurs in the UK have access to all the necessary financial and insurance facilities required to start and grow a business.
The Centre for Entrepreneurs intends to launch the ‘Refugee Entrepreneurship Network’ that will act as a campaigning coalition to build upon the report which can be downloaded here.
Please contact them if you feel you should be part of this initiative.
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