Refugee Talent in the media and news

‘People just want a chance’: the Australian network connecting refugees with jobs

Source: The guardian

‘People just want a chance’: the Australian network connecting refugees with jobs

By about the 100th job application he had sent off, Nirary Dacho had lost count – and all confidence.

“It was very hard on me,” the 29-year-old Assyrian says. “Initially I was very confident but, after 10, 20 applications with no response, I began to think, ‘No one will employ me.’”

Dacho had arrived in Australia in June 2015 as a refugee from war-torn Syria, accepted for resettlement with his family as part of Australia’s humanitarian migration scheme.

Like so many others before and since, he had fled the conflict in Syria, which has driven more than 5 million people from the country, which this month descended again into the horrors of illegal chemical warfare.

One of the lucky ones who got out, Australia gave Dacho a chance to rebuild his life. He would begin by restarting his career.

Dacho was initially confident work would find him. He believed he had everything a prospective employer could want. He was qualified, with a master’s degree in web science, he had strong English and a proven track record in his industry – eight years working in IT with multinational companies and teaching programming at a university in his homeland. He had even found work in Lebanon, to which he had initially fled.

“I thought it would be easy, I thought I would be a strong candidate but I found it very difficult and it was very hard for me.”

What Dacho realised he lacked was not the skills but the network, the linkages and connections, often informal and sometimes almost unrealised, that form part of the job-seeking process.

So Dacho decided to build the network.

After an appearance on the ABC’s Lateline – for a segment about the challenges faced by refugees finding work – Dacho was immediately overwhelmed with 10 job offers and he realised there was a wealth of goodwill towards refugees within the Australian business community; employers anxious to hire new humanitarian arrivals but who had difficulty in finding them.

At a networking event for refugees with IT skills, Dacho met Anna Robson, a former Save the Children worker on Nauru who says her time on the offshore detention island showed her the psychological damage of people’s “talent being wasted” when refugees were keen, even anxious, to work but were unable to find a meaningful outlet for their skills.

Together, and with the benefaction of the chairman of Vantage Asia Holdings, Jason Yat-Sen Li, Robson and Dacho created Refugee Talent, a web platform that matches refugees seeking work with employers seeking qualified employees and keen to hire a refugee.

“People just want a chance to work, to use their skills, and this is a way we match them to business who are looking for people like them: who are innovative, entrepreneurial and motivated,” Robson says.

The site has found an immediate audience: more than 500 candidates and 150 potential employers are registered. Refugee Talent has helped place men and women from Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan and Nepal into work.

Employers are able to search candidates’ CVs by industry, qualification and location. Refugees looking for work are able to search available jobs in their field, state and city.

Refugee Talent also runs “speed-dating events” for prospective employers and employees, workshops to help prepare refugees for entry into the workplace – everything from help writing a resume to practice job interviews – and provides post-placement support for those hired for 18 months.

Nirary Dacho, Simone Allen, Anna Robson and Vito Carrozzo from Refugee Talent
Nirary Dacho, Simone Allen, Anna Robson and Vito Carrozzo. Photograph: Refugee Talent

“All of those we have placed into work are still working, and working in their field,” Dacho says. “It’s very important for people when they arrive in Australia that they are able to start working in their profession, not engineers working as drivers or cleaners. It’s important for them, for their families, and, for their communities, they become role models.”

Robson says the success of Refugee Talent lies, too, in the fact that “it’s good for business”.

“Businesses gain an employee who is highly skilled and motivated to work, someone who brings international experience and diversity to their workplace. It’s good for their bottom line.”

Dacho has designs on overseas expansion.

From July, a trial international talent program will allow Australian employers to sponsor a refugee still overseas to come to Australia.

Via Refugee Talent, and other platforms, an Australian employer will be able to reach into a refugee camp or settlement on the other side of the world and bring a refugee into the country with the guarantee of a job and support rebuilding their lives.

The trial program, announced by the prime minister in September, will offer 1000 visas and is being pitched as a model of an “alternative migration pathway” for refugees that can prevent more dangerous irregular migration by land or sea.

Dacho is excited by the prospects.

“An Australian business can hire someone, and save their life, all at the same time.”

Since 2015, former commonwealth public service head Dr Peter Shergold has served as coordinator-general for refugee resettlement in NSW, the state that resettles the largest share of humanitarian migrants.

Shergold has overseen a program avowedly focused on helping refugees into jobs.

“We know that finding employment is one of the most important factors when it comes to building a new life in a new country,” a spokeswoman for the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet said.

“Finding stable, adequately remunerated and fulfilling employment has been identified as a key determinant of refugees’ ability to successfully engage in other aspects of society.”

As the largest employer in the state, the NSW government has committed to employing 100 refugees across the public sector and pledged $22m to a Refugee Employment Support Program to assist refugees developing career plans and linking them to employers and training.

“The response from the NSW business community has been heartening,” the spokeswoman said. “A number of large Australian organisations have also committed to train, mentor and employ refugees, to develop targeted refugee employment programs, provide employment grants and assist refugees to become ‘job ready’.”

A 2011 study commissioned by the immigration department found that, 18 months after arriving in Australia, 43% of humanitarian entrants remain unemployed.

However, the same research found “the overwhelming picture, when one takes the longer-term perspective of changes over the working lifetime of humanitarian program entrants and their children, is one of considerable achievement and contribution”.

“Humanitarian entrants help meet labour shortages … they display strong entrepreneurial qualities … [and] also benefit the wider community through developing and maintaining economic linkages with their origin countries. In addition, they make significant contributions through volunteering in both the wider community and within their own community groups.”

Dacho says the chance to come to Australia has been life-changing and the opportunity to establish Refugee Talent equally so.

“For me, it is more than business and a full-time job. It is changing people’s lives … which is the best thing I could ever do.”


Refugee Talent in Forbes 30 under 30 Asia 2017social-entrepreneurs

Source:  Forbes – 30 Under 30 – Asia – Social Entrepreneurs

Former refugee's innovative start-up helps others find employment

Forbes 30 under 30 Asia 2017social-entrepreneurs

Refugee Talent

Co founders, Refugee Talent

When arriving in Australia from Syria on a humanitarian visa, Dacho could speak English, had a master’s degree in web science and 8+ years of work experience. Still, he found it impossible to break into the employment market. He cofounded Refugee Talent with Anna Robson, to help other refugees find jobs in their new home countries. By leveraging online tools, the startup aims to connect refugees with companies who are looking to hire them as statistics show that 85% of refugees remain unemployed within the first five years of their arrival.


Breaking down barriers: how a Syrian refugee turned his good luck into jobs for others

Source: The Guardian

Breaking down barriers: how a Syrian refugee turned his good luck into jobs for others

Refugee Talent Speed Dating Event Sydney

Just 14 months ago Nirary Dacho was a penniless refugee, landing at Sydney airport with a dream of being able to continue his career as an IT analyst in a country where he would be safe from Isis.

Today the 29-year old Assyrian sits in a comfortable office as the cofounder of Refugee Talent, a fast-growing digital platform that exists to get refugees into work.

This has been a rapid turnaround in fortune – especially considering 48% of those on humanitarian visas remain unemployed 18 months after arriving.

Dacho has been able to break free from the traps that frustrate other refugees, thanks to a combination of lucky breaks and his ability to make good connections.

When Dacho arrived from Syria, via Lebanon, on a humanitarian visa with his parents, brother and sister, he could speak English, had a master’s degree in web science and more than eight years of working in IT and teaching programming at university in Syria.

Even so, he found it impossible to break into the employment market, despite updating his skills to Australian qualifications.

“My qualification was from overseas and I had no work experience in Australia and these are two of the main barriers for employment for refugees,” he says.

Dacho applied for more than 100 jobs in his first eight months before getting his first lucky break – which involved starring in a television news segment.

When the ABC’s Lateline program was preparing a story on unemployed refugees, the assistance organisation, Settlement Services International, nominated Dacho as a client to be profiled.

After it was screened, 10 employers lined up to offer him work and help. With a three-month contract as a software engineer with the technology company Dolby Australia, he was getting local experience that seems a prerequisite for most employers.

It was an exciting development, however Dacho was nowhere near elated. “It was such a bad feeling,” he says, explaining that he was thinking of the thousands of other refugees still waiting for their lucky break.

“They are also qualified and have long years of experience and they are sitting there, doing nothing. I was happy because I finally got a job but, the other side of it, [I] felt so bad.”

Dacho’s second stroke of good fortune came 12 months ago when he attended a networking event for refugees with IT skills – Techfugees Hackathon Australia – and met Anna Robson, who became his cofounder and the chief executive of Refugee Talent.

Robson had spent 10 months working at the Nauru detention centre as an adult recreation officer and the two of them bonded over their desire to help refugees get work experience. Robson decided to join forces with Dacho to build an online platform to connect refugees to employers. The site launched in February.

The third time fortune smiled upon them was in March this year when Robson, moonlighting as an Uber driver, started chatting about her venture with an investor she was taking to the airport.

That passenger was Jason Yat-Sen Li, the chairman of Vantage Asia Holdings, a diversified investment group with offices in Beijing and Sydney and interests in real estate, mining, financial services and technology. Li is also a former Labor candidate for the seat of Bennelong.

“I asked her what she did when she wasn’t driving an Uber,” says Li, who was moved by what she had to say about her work with Save the Children on Nauru.

“The thing that caught me the most, apart from the awful things she saw there, was her observation that the vast majority of the people who were locked up there were highly skilled. They were doctors and engineers and software developers.”

Li became an investor in Refugee Talent, offering Dacho and Robson free space in his Sydney Surry Hills office, business start-up advice and introduction to his business connections.

“The story and the serendipity of it appealed,” Li says. “It is a really nice thing in the innovation space where one can do something that reflects one’s values and hopefully do well out of it as well. We do think it has the potential to be a viable business.

“They sit with us in our office so, whenever they have questions or problems, they come to us. I chair their board and have helped them to put together a small board of directors. I have helped them raise a little money to get them started and they use some of our in-house resources, like an in-house designer.”

Refugee Talent now has 50 employers on board, has 160 clients and has placed 15 in jobs in its first eight months. The company has expanded to Melbourne and is looking at other states.

Dacho says the duo never expected things to happen so fast, thinking it would take two to three years to get to the point where they are now at 11 months, with both being employed full-time by the business.

“I am so lucky because I have these three moments in Australia,” he says, referring to his lucky breaks.

His advice to other refugees would be to take the initiative, rather than depending on case workers and assistance organisations. They should also get Australian qualifications as soon as possible and try to get any job (to get local experience), using refugee-assistance channels or applying direct to employers.

And drawing upon his experience, they should also make the effort to meet as many people as they can to build up a network.

New type of speed dating matches refugees with jobs

Source: SBS

It’s not a search for a new partner, but a refined hunt for a job opportunity using a novel approach.

Mimicking speed dating, at this previously untried event, a group of 40 refugees are given five minute blocks of time to woo and hopefully impress would be employers and job market professionals.

Organiser Nirary Dacho, himself a Syrian refugee, says it has been a great success and is bound to lead to more job speed dating days.

“Here’s is the talent, in refugee community, in asylum seeker community – so it’s worth to have a look at this talent and consider them as highly skilled people you know,” he tells SBS.

Simone Allen from Mondo Search, an executive recruitment company, says the initiative is an excellent way to connect employers with potential candidates.

“Incredibly worthwhile. In fact I’ve recently posted a blog about it and connected with all our clients to say look at this mechanism for reaching out to incredible talent, just hidden talent you wouldn’t be aware of,” she says.

Organiser Nirary Dacho had the idea of a two hour session of rotating opportunities.

“I applied like 100 applications to different companies to get any job and I ended up with nothing because I don’t have local experience,” he says.

The IT expert, who was an academic in Syria, was given a chance by his first Australian employer Dolby to start the program called “Refugee Talent”.

Tapping into employers and recruitment agencies representing sixty businesses was an initial group of 40 refugees including Syrian brothers, Rami and Rawad.

“I have a degree from Damascus University in economics, banking and insurance. I’m trying to do the best to work in my section,” Rawad Kaiber says.

The philosophy of Refugee Talent is simple “Gain Local Experience”, “Use your skills”, and “Improve your long term prospects”, says Nirary.

“Here’s is the talent.. in refugee community in asylum seeker community so it’s worth to have a look at this talent and consider them as highly skilled people you know.”

Syrian refugee wins chance to show off his recruitment startup to the world

Source: startupsmart

Refugee Talent co-founder and CTO Nirary-Dacho

A Syrian refugee who is building a platform to tackle one of the biggest challenges refugees face when starting new lives in Australia has won a chance to show it off on the world stage.

Refugee Talent, formerly named Refugee Intern, was chosen from nearly 40 ventures to compete at The Difference Incubator’s (TDi’s) upcoming pitch contest.

The winner will score $15,000 in cash, a seat in The Difference Incubator’s $150,000 investment readiness program, and a trip to the Social Enterprise World Forum, which will be held in New Zealand next year.

On November 22, four impact-driven founders including Refugee Talent co-founder and CTO Nirary Dacho will celebrate their graduation of TDi’s Two Feet program by going head to head in a Dragon’s Den-style startup battle.

Dacho started working on his venture at the Techfugees hackathon in Sydney last year where he met his co-founder Anna Robson.

He had just fled the Syrian war, coming to Australia with his family ready for a new life.

“I was a lecturer in university for IT and telecommunications,” he tells StartupSmart.

“After the Syrian war started, we escaped from Syria to Lebanon where I spent one year working for an IT company, then we applied for a humanitarian visa and after one year, we got accepted.

“We arrived in Australia last year on the 18th of June [and] the next day, I started applying for jobs.”

Despite having nearly a decade’s worth of IT experience and being highly qualified, more than 100 of Dacho’s job applications were knocked back with the same response.

“You don’t have local experience,” he says.

It’s a plight shared by many refugees and immigrants starting new lives in Australia, and one that Dacho hopes to solve with Refugee Talent.

“I couldn’t imagine it would be so hard,” he says.

Following a televised interview on Dateline, where Dacho exposed the incredible difficulties he and others like him have in securing employment, he received 10 job offers from around the country.

“Businesses want to help refugees but they don’t know where to go, so we started to build this platform for that,” he says.

Refugee Talent provides a one-stop shop for Australian businesses to find and recruit highly skilled and experienced refugees.

It helps “unlock refugee potential” by matching users with volunteering positions, apprenticeships, internships and paid jobs that reflect a candidate’s expertise and experience.

Dacho and his team are now working to expand the platform across Australia.

It currently operates in Sydney and Melbourne with 60 businesses and 100 refugees signed up.

“The big vision is we will be the number one solution for refugees to find employment,” he says.

“We are now doing the right mission, we are in the right position.”

Meet the other contestants for TDi’s pitch contest:

  • Champion Life, founded by Kym Hunter and Olympian Brennon Dowrick OAM, is an online platform designed to motivate young teens to pick up sport and physical activity as a lifelong habit;
  • Circular Food, founded by Steve Morriss, aims to close the loop of organic waste by educating professional farmers and gardeners on using vermiculture or worm farms for commercial products; and
  • SettleIn, founded by Alice Brennan, is an online platform to empower refugees when working with caseworkers by enabling them to take charge of the new life they build in Australia. SettleIn won Australia’s first Techfugees Hackathon event.




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


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, 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.”

From Employment Platforms in Austria and Australia to Ethnic Meals in NYC

Source: MIT Technology Review

Three startups in three different continents are helping refugees find employment.

Refugee cooking food. Credit to EatOff Beat
Refugee cooking food. Credit to EatOff Beat

After meeting Abdul, a refugee from Pakistan late last year, Austrian lawyer Dominik Beron was impressed with his ambition to reform the educational system back home. It was his first real longer conversation with a refugee and he felt the urge to help out.

Frustrated by the lack of support from the Austrian government at helping refugees integrate and find employment, he was determined to fill in the void; he launched the social for profit enterpriseRefugee Work in January of this year.

A screenshot from the site of Refugee Work

Independent of government funding, the startup is funded by the annual membership fees of corporates and employers who want access to the platform. “We want to make a statement that companies are paying to recruit refugees” says 24-year-old Beron.

With the beta version of the platform launched early June, 250 corporates have registered on the platform. The platform which features over 3,000 refugee profiles has successfully matched 50 refugees to date in different sectors including translation, facility management and software testing. The platform offers more than just matching refugees with corporates and has a range of services including assessing skills, training refugees on developing CVs and undergoing interviews, addressing post interview feedback and even sending refugees a checklist of what to take to an interview.

According to Beron, three factors are motivating corporates to pay the annual fee: a shortage of staff for jobs with low qualification requirements such as electricians, engineers etc. especially outside of the big cities, an increase in the diversity of the workforce and social responsibility.

Currently covering all of Austria, the startup has plans to expand its platform on a European scale and has found potential partners in other countries such as the Netherlands.

Securing jobs for refugees in Australia

Across the globe from Refugee Work is another startup based out of Australia that is also working on matching refugees with employment and internship opportunities. Founded by Syrian refugee Nirary Dacho and co-founder Anna Robson, both 29 years-old, Refugee Intern came together after a TechFugees hackathon held in Sydney in November 2015 and was officially luanch in July of this year.

With a Masters degree in Web Science, Dacho was a lecturer at a university in Syria before fleeing the civil strife to move to Australia with his family last summer. “I am lucky because I got to come to Australia with my family” says Dacho.

The site of Refugee Talent

After spending a year at home struggling to find a job, he got the idea to establish a platform to support refugees in finding opportunities. “In Australia, they require local experience; without it, qualifications overseas don’t matter” adds Dacho.

So far, 80 refugees and 12 companies are on board. The founders are meeting with the federal government next month for a potential collaboration.

Like Refugee Work, the platform is a channel for refugees to connect to businesses and apply for employment positions. The founders are changing the name of the platform to Refugee Talent to better reflect the opportunities provided. In the month since they launched, they have placed seven refugees who had on average spent two years in Australia without finding a job. All of these placements are paid contracts lasting three to six months.

“The refugees arriving here have many years of experience; they are highly skilled with new ideas, new ways to do things” says Dacho.

Refugee Cooks in NYC

Further away from Australia, another startup is betting on the skills of refugees, this time in the field of cooking. It all started with Manal Rahi’s disappointment in the quality of hummus she found in supermarkets in New York City. Moving to NYC from Beirut in 2013 to study public administration, Rahi started making her own hommos at home; as  she explored selling it, she started analysing the food industry.

As the refugee crisis worsened, Rahi, her brother Wissam and their friend Christian Chemaly, felt helpless. In November last year, the idea of EatOff Beat came together: hire refugees from across communities as cooks and sell ethnic meals in NYC through an online platform.

Partnering with the International Rescue Committee, they were able to identify talented home cooks passionate about food and sharing their culture. “That was the only requirement; they don’t need to have english skills or professional experience” says Kahi.

So far, EatOff Beat’s 11 refugees – from chefs from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Nepal to a kitchen manager to delivery operators – have brought  close to 6,000 ethnic meals to New Yorkers. Their immediate plan is to expand their delivery reach within NYC first and then offer their ethnic meals to other cosmopolitan cities.

“People come for the mission because they are intrigued but they always come back for the food” says Rahi.

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The Refugee Crisis: How Coders, Apps, and Technology Provide Relief

Source: Coder Factory Academy


The Refugee Crisis: How Coders, Apps, and Technology Provide Relief

The Refugee Crisis: How Coders, Apps, and Technology Provide Relief

When my editor suggested I write an article about coding and refugees, I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it was going to be an easy post to write.

But it turns out I was wrong, very wrong. It also turns out that I needn’t have asked for payment in advance.

This is because the moment I started doing some research I quickly came across a wealth of evidence, research, and one of the best examples of pure altruism I’ve seen in a long time in the tech world.

You may or may not be aware of it, but coders, tech engineers and app designers are helping refugees from around the world every day…and they’re not doing it for profit. More than that, they’re making a real difference and a real positive impact on the lives of refugees worldwide.

apps for refugees

Refugee Crisis? There’s an App for That

If you have been unlucky enough to be caught up in a civil war between say a dictator on one side, ineffectual international intervention, and fear being at the mercy of religious extremists; or been caught in the middle of a warzone, and now attempt to survive by crossing a desert or an inhospitable sea on a rubber Band-Aid in an attempt to save you and your family’s lives; or paid thousands of dollars for the privilege of escaping to some untrustworthy and nefarious individuals, only to end up in a country where you don’t speak the language and face an uncertain future of prejudice, resentment and genuine repression for “coming over here and not making an effort”…

Then don’t panic, because there’s an app for that. No, seriously, there is. In fact, there are heaps of them! Pick one and get going.

A genuine revelation

Refugees can access apps that will help them save their lives, and it’s actually part of a growing trend worldwide.

To be honest, I should have known. I’ve covered other tech related innovations designed to help humans over the last few years, such as MS, Google and Facebook’s efforts to grant even the remotest parts of the world better internet. I’ve also been a champion of the Raspberry Pi, and even covered emergent renewable power in third world countries.

So, it should go without saying that there are also apps for refugees. Someone like you and me has built them…and the best news of all is that if you can code, you too possess the power to create applications for the benefit of humanity.

The curious thing (and also the wonderful thing) about how coding has helped refugees is the fact that much of it’s been carried out by small like-minded groups and individuals.

how to help refugees

But, how exactly can technology and coding help refugees?

At its most basic level, merely having a phone with GPS and Google Maps installed has proved to be a lifesaver for refugees.

According to Amnesty International, the war in Syria alone has displaced over 4 million individuals — nevermind the estimated 43 million (and growing) worldwide.

Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much of an organisational infrastructure for civilians wanting to flee war zones. Sheltering, feeding and providing essential healthcare is a logistical nightmare for NGOs and other organisations trying to help. But, by utilising data and analytical technology, some groups have deployed rather innovative mechanisms to try and make the difference.

app for refugees

And why wouldn’t it?

It was only last year that the chief information officer for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) said that the “first thing people running the Za’atri [refugee] camp in Jordan ask for is not tents and blankets, but where they can charge their mobile phones.”

For a refugee, looking at cute pictures of kittens is one of the last things on their mind. Instead, the humble mobile phone is now seen as an integral part of a wide gamut of strategies currently worked on under the guide of the UN Innovation program.

It’s also an example of where big tech companies can make their presence felt. Microsoft has been working since 1999 to support UNHCR in its mandate to offer refugee assistance, by leveraging technology, specifically, with the proGres initiative.

Some volunteer Microsoft employees began ProGres back in 1999. Since then, ProGres has become the UN global registration system for refugees. By the end of 2010, proGres operated in more than 250 locations across 82 countries, and to date has provided assistance to nearly 5 million refugees.

Thanks to ProGres’ implementation of Iris scanning technology commonly used by U.S. banks, there’s no longer an administrative backlog of refugees waiting to be registered. As a concrete example, the UN has estimated that over 600,000 refugees currently reside in Jordan.

Keeping tabs on the number of refugees has proven more impactful than knowing each refugee’s name. According to Andrew Harper of the UN, it’s fundamentally changed the way the UN distributes aid to the estimated 2 million plus refugees both in Jordan and surrounding areas. The resulting data ensures that aid is implemented in a much more effective manner than ever before.

The Migrants’ Files project takes a different approach, likely because it was designed with an alternative purpose in mind. It was launched in 2013 when a group of European journalists and researchers joined forces to quantify the deaths of immigrants seeking refuge in Europe, and identify the locations of these tragedies on maps. The Migrants’ Files involves the extended use of graphical information systems to plot data accurately on maps, and paints a different story to the one the media tells.

Another great example of technology and coding helping refugees is Refunite, another powerful service that helps people who have been displaced. Refunite’s tagline is: ‘Everyone has a right to know where their family is.’

Refunite is the story of two tech engineers, David and Christopher, who found that existent family tracing programs lacked collaborative technology. Their mission is to eradicate the fill-in forms that made information sharing between agencies, borders, and conflicts really ineffective.

The power of entrepreneurs, hackathons, and techfugees

As you can see, a handful of tech entrepreneurs and established big tech have done their parts in helping refugees worldwide. But, the primary players have done it on a volunteer or not for profit basis. With that said, you don’t need to join or be employed by an NGO or a humanitarian organisation to help. You don’t need to travel to effected areas to get involved either. All you need to be is aTechfugee.

The term ‘techfugee’ simply refers to people around the world who volunteer their time to aid today’s human crises. Techfugees are part of the global collective aspiring to use technology to help out refugees…and they’re not an isolated bunch either! facilitates this work. While doing their part by coming up with innovative solutions, also places humanitarian engineers and coders in NGO’s. The best part of all? Techfugee’s work seems entirely altruistic in nature.

Refugees and their brave new world

It’s about much more than helping refugees flee whatever card they’ve been dealt. There are also issues after the fact. It’s just one of those things. There’s an awful lot of news documenting refugees as they flee, but there’s not much information once they’ve arrived.

While their lives might no longer be in immediate danger from lethal persecution, there’s a hundred and one problems they continue to face in their new country. From language barriers to cultural problems, to downright lack of basic information, refugees have massive amounts of work cut out for them with too few resources to lean on for help.

To reiterate: Coders possess the power to provide relief for refugees.

In our current digital age, geographic location doesn’t matter in the way it would’ve only ten years ago. Unsurprisingly, many ideas for apps and software to assist newly arrived refugees come from individuals who were once refugees themselves.

As a general rule of thumb, the ability to program is akin to learning a universal language. Coding is transferable.

Refugees from countries like Syria, Libya, and Iraq are the latest in a long line of displaced people marching back through history. Over the last two years, Techfugee hackathons have been organised across the world, including our very own Australia.

Back in November 2015, more than 50 tech developers, along with 30 people who came to Australia as refugees, joined forces in a suburb of Sydney to create apps that would help recently arrived refugee families integrate more easily into Australian society and understand our cultural differences in an enlightened way.

Techfugee events involve much more than well-intentioned coders getting together and assuming they know how to create apps and software that will help refugees. Taking an Agile approach, participants collaborate directly with refugees. Refugees talk to developers one-on-one in small, direct conversations about the issues and problems they personally faced upon arrival.

Even part-time Coder Factory student, Anna Robson, applied her recent coding skills to build a fully functinal app for refugees. Not to mention, Anna met co-founder Nirary at the Sydney Techfugee Hackathon in November 2015. The two joined together to solve the problem of talented, educated, and experienced people seeking refuge in Australia struggling to gain local work experience in their new country. The solution? Refugee Intern: a digital platform connecting skilled refugees with companies offering internships.

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Of course, while most of the Techfugee apps are still in development, turnaround time has significantly reduced thanks to the collective effort of small localised groups of coders, such as the talented amongst us in Sydney.

Join the efforts

While there’s been heaps in the news lately about the fast-paced development of artificial intelligence, and the impending displacement of work by robots, Techfugees worldwide have continued to do their best to help refugees globally by doing what they do best: coding.

The most refreshing part of it all is that they’re not incentivised by profits. Everyone involved strives to make a real difference, and the positive impact of technology on refugees has become palpable worldwide.

Anyone who knows how to code can help. What are you waiting for? Start learning today with Coder Factory.

Words: Euan Viveash | Main photo: Ben Fuchs (Co.Exist article)