Some fearful voices – both in this country, and overseas – spit out ill-informed tripe, like the preposterous notion that immigrants and refugees are “taking our jobs.” Au contraire. Those of us born overseas (who, for the record, make up more than a quarter of Australia’s population) are makingjobs, and are crucial to the future prosperity of our labour market. So echoed economic sociologist Erin Watson-Lynn to SBS, explaining that migrants and refugees drive “The Three P’s” of economic growth: “population, participation and productivity.”

“There is actually a risk if we don’t bring in migrants,” she warned, saying we’ll need an influx of new workers as Australia’s aging population exits the workforce – a fresh crop of taxpayers to maintain the relatively cushy standard of living to which we are accustomed. The article goes on to cite a report that finds that refugees, in particular, are “entrepreneurial at a rate higher than other immigrant groups,” and stories emerging across the globe suggest as much (one of our personal faves is that of Syrian refugeeAssam Hadhad, who opened a chocolate factory in his new home of Antigonish in Canada).

So how can we support and up-skill these valuable individuals? Numerous start-ups are on the case – many of which, we weren’t surprised to discover, were founded by refugees.
Here’s a handful that have caught our attention:


Social enterprise Techfugees was formed in response to the plight of refugees in Europe. A number of tech-heads banded together to create a series of non-profit events bringing tech engineers, entrepreneurs and start-ups together with NGOs to generate tech solutions to help refugees. With 15,000 members to date, they’ve provided internet access, online and offline education and access to banking, social media and entrepreneurship to refugees in camps and on the move. 


Syrian refugee Simon wished there’d been something like this around when he came to Australia, so set about inventing it himself. Winning the inaugural Techfugees Australia Hackathon late last year, 23-year-old Simon and his team were accepted into an incubator program at Pollenizer – where they birthed SettleIn – an app that connects newly arrived refugees with case workers who assist them with sorting out paper work, documentation, opening bank accounts (the list goes on…) and goal setting, making the process of settling in that bit easier.

Refugee Talent

After meeting at a Techfugees Hackathon event, Nirary Dacho (a former university lecturer in Syria) and Anna Robson (an Australian former employee of Nauru Detention Centre), joined forces to create Refugee Talent – a platform connecting refugees with employers offering short and long-term job opportunities. The venture scratched a personal itch for Nirary, a highly qualified Syrian refugee who endured an exhausting job-seeking process only to have more than 100 job applications knocked back. Refugee Talent has attracted more than 50 skilled refugees to date.

Eat Offbeat

Further afield, New York City’s Eat Offbeat meal delivery start-up sniffs out talented cooks amongst incoming refugees and hires them to work in a commercial kitchen, conceiving, preparing and delivering traditional meals made from centuries-old recipes. Co-founder Manal Kahi was inspired to start the service when she moved to New York from Lebanon and was unimpressed by the hummus she found in supermarkets. Eat Offbeat has six women in the kitchen so far, from places as far flung as Eritrea, Iraq and Nepal.

Newcomer Bootcamp

The clever folk at Techfugees are also behind Helsinki’s Newcomer Bootcamp – a business boot camp for refugees from Syria, Iraq and Somalia. The result of a partnering between numerous organisations (including Moni, a Finnish start-up that makes it easier for refugees to access, send and receive money), this three-day event helps refugees find work as entrepreneurs and start new businesses in Western Europe, through mentorship and training.   

Refugees taking on the business world

Source: sbs.com.au

Refugees taking on the business world


Growing up in Tehran, Mohammed Reza loved nothing more than to help his father in the family’s confectionary shop. From the age of 14, he was trained in the art of making Persian-flavoured sweets and ice-cream.

So when the Reza family arrived in Australia as refugees three years ago, Mohammed saw an opportunity for the taking, catering to Sydney’s diverse food scene.

“I saw a gap in the market for Persian ice cream and confectionary as there is a large Persian population and from experience, other cultures also enjoy Persian sweets very much,” he says.

His Merrylands store opened in August 2015 serving up traditional Persian favourites such as falloodeh, a cold dessert of vermicelli noodles made from cornstarch mixed in a semi-frozen syrup made from sugar and rose water, and Turkish mastic ice-cream.

Reza has had to learn to adapt to his new market. Sydney’s population is much smaller than Tehran’s, so he had to adjust to the new business landscape as well as his customers’ tastebuds.

“I know that any business that is started needs at least one to two years to grow and build their market share,” he says. “My business is still in the establishment and growth phase so my expectations are not very high yet, but I am making the roots of my business as strong as possible so that I am able to achieve the best that I can.

I saw a gap in the market for Persian ice cream and confectionary as there is a large Persian population and from experience, other cultures also enjoy Persian sweets very much.

“My motto in business has always been that being good is not enough, continuous improvement and striving to be the best is what will lead you to success.”

Some community initiatives are offering new arrivals extra support for setting themselves up with a business. For example, Settlement Services International’s Ignite Small Business Start-Up’s program supports refugees with business dreams.

Ignite helps refugee entrepreneurs with product development, marketing strategy and financial management. This vital support helps them overcome the many difficulties of setting up a business in a new country, says SSI chief executive Violet Roumeliotis.

“Often, English is not their first language, and this is one of the most substantial barriers,” she says.

“Their qualifications from their home countries may not be recognised, and they also have no local workplace knowledge or experience, networks or contacts to call on for references and this makes finding employment quite difficult.

“They are often unfamiliar with local recruitment processes such as writing resumes, answering selection criteria, and interviews.”

Many refugees have owned businesses in their home country and are keen to start over again in Australia. “Owning their own business can allow for smoother integration into the Australian community,” Roumeliotis says.

“They also become contributors to the Australian economy which is important, obviously for Australia, but for their personal sense of achievement and independence.”


Syria’s Nirary Dacho has a Masters in Web Science, was a university lecturer and working in IT for the Syrian Telecom Company before fleeing the war. However when he came to Australia last year he found his qualifications and experience were not as valued.

Seeing new arrivals in under-qualified jobs and struggling to have their skills recognised inspired him to start an intern program for refugees.

“When I arrived to Australia, I didn’t have any plan to start my own business,” he says.

“All I wanted was a permanent job with enough income to build my life again in Australia, but the barriers I faced to achieve this goal made me think to start this business to help myself and other refugees, by creating a platform to match refugees with business offering job opportunities.”

All I wanted was a permanent job with enough income to build my life again in Australia

Dacho says refugeeintern.com, which he has co-founded with Save the Children’s Anna Robson, is more of a social service than a business.

“Our plan is to help as many refugees and asylum seekers to get a job and start their professions in Australia,” he says.

“We started in Sydney and last month expanded in Melbourne and our future plan is to [become] national across Australia.”