Opinion

Businesses should play a pivotal role in the refugee crisis

4 min read

22 September 2015

Government, business associations and individual firms can help refugees contribute to the economy.

Most of the focus on the current refugee crisis in both Western and Eastern Europe has been on finding people shelter and somewhere permanent to live.

That, despite the arguments from both sides about the practicality of taking on thousands of refugees, is only sensible.

But long-term thoughts about how these people from Syria or Afghanistan can help our economy in the long-term after they have settled here have yet to be asked.

One way is to try and tap into a desire these new entrants might have in setting up their own businesses.

If that is going to be a key focus then as a country we have to sharpen up our strategies and policies.

According to new research from social enterprise This Foreigner Can, which helps provide startup funding and mentoring for those who have chosen to move to the UK, migrant entrepreneurs are being hit by a lack of access to funding.

It found that an alarming 61 per cent said that obtaining finance was the biggest obstacle to setting up their business. One of the primary reasons stated was because they did not have sufficient credit history in the UK to qualify for traditional startup loans and business funding.

Its founder and migrant entrepreneur Rafael Dos Santos has created the Migrant Business Accelerator programme to help other entrepreneurial migrants to fast track their way to business success with the help of startup funding and mentoring from a team of business professionals.

He said: “I first arrived in the UK over ten years ago with the goal of learning English. Following a string of menial jobs, including being a glass collector and a cleaner, I was able to pursue my dream of setting up my own property business, which I successfully sold in 2014.

“I have first-hand experience of the obstacles a migrant has to go through to set up their own business in the UK, and I wanted to use my knowledge to help others get their feet on the ground. Money isn’t the only thing you need as a migrant entrepreneur, you also need to understand a whole host of other things which will contribute to whether your business thrives or not.”

His initiative needs all the support it can get with perhaps the government, local authorities and business associations assisting its work or creating similar programmes on a national or local level.

Migrant entrepreneurs must be given every chance to succeed and contributing to transforming their own lives and helping to boost the economy.

In this present climate when ordinary Britons are seemingly willing to open up the doors of their own homes to let desperate refugee families into their spare rooms or on their sofas individual businesses can also do more.

Get in touch with your local authorities and find out when and how many refugees will be coming to your town or region.

Ask whether there is anything you can do to help in terms of offering part or full-time positions, work experience, training in business or interviewing skills, help with translation etc.

Formulate a policy to help the refugees settle into life in the UK and become a valuable contributor to the economy.