Refugees are more likely to be self-employed in the UK. This program gives them business training | UK News
A pilot program that assisted 112 refugees to attend business start-up training has been expanded.
Funded by the Home Office and the National Lottery Community Fund, the program supports refugees for a year, taking them from the idea stage to starting a business.
After its success, three of the four organizations that organized the workshops secured a collective £ 1.7million to expand the pilot sites.
The Center for Entrepreneurs, which oversaw the project, hopes to help another 585 refugees over the next 18 months.
Matt Smith, the centre’s policy director, said: “We had 112 people going through the program, 25% of them were launched during the pandemic and 40% were preparing for it afterwards.”
The Center for Entrepreneurs says the pilot proves that tailor-made business support for refugees works, and now calls for more.
Mr Smith added: “What we now need is national level commitment and collaboration from businesses, banks, local authorities and the third sector to ensure that every refugee interested can access this vital support and start rebuilding their life through entrepreneurship.
Nejat Salih is a 28-year-old Eritrean refugee who has benefited from the program.
She arrived in the UK in 2016 after a long and tumultuous journey – crossing the deserts of Sudan before finding safety in London.
Ms Salih said: “All I had was my talent and the will to want to do something.”
But talent alone was not enough.
Like many refugees, Ms Salih struggled to get the support she needed to start her beauty business.
She said: “As a refugee, when I go to ask for a loan or an investment, it’s not easy.
Ms. Salih eventually received funding and support from the pilot project and has been self-employed for over a year.
She said: “Having my own business here in the UK makes me feel like I belong and I’m doing something.
“I don’t just wait, I actually give.”
Some 23% of refugees in the UK become self-employed, according to a study by the Center on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS).
This compares to 15% of UK-born nationals.
Carlos Vargas-Silva, director of COMPAS, explains that this is because refugees often face discrimination when looking for work.
“It is more difficult to find a job as an employee for refugees,” says Vargas-Silva, and because of this, they are more likely to be self-employed.
“Not as a first option, but just to adapt to this discrimination in the labor market.”
Refugees often arrive from places of conflict or war, and Mr Vargas-Silva says that while the UK has a good record of hosting refugees, more needs to be done to support them when they get here .
He continued, “Once they are in this country we want them to be successful because otherwise it will cost the government dearly.
“We really want to be by their side and allow them to integrate easily into the labor market, allow them to have better companies.
“At first it’s a humanitarian decision, but at the end it’s an economic decision for us to make them succeed.”