Refugee Business Start-ups in the North East of England: An Impossible Dream?

Hilary Davidson, Ian Fitzgerald, Lucinda Hudson

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Objectives and prior work - For many asylum seekers just getting to the UK is an achievement, let alone obtaining refugee status. When ‘equality’ is achieved with other immigrant workers then the settlement process begins. For some this includes starting a business but there are a number of well documented barriers to business start-up for refugees as well as black minority ethic entrepreneurs, which have been highlighted in the North East region (BRKN, 2007). Given this Northumbria University has sought to engage with these communities. This paper represents on-going research which began with a Northumbria University funded project that supported two main workshops aimed at refugees who wished to start a business. Approach - The University sought to engage with this particular part of the community through a project which aimed to contribute to the widening of business start-up for refugees at a time of increasing economic uncertainty. One practical means that had become available was the opportunity to establish a community based social enterprise. Given this an introductory workshop for refugees was organised on social enterprises. The workshop attracted over twenty-five community leader participants from ten different nations including the Cameroon, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Pakistan, Somalia, the Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Participants requested a second workshop which then took place on ‘planning a business venture.’ Results - Questionnaire data was obtained from these workshops on business and social enterprise start-up, previous business experience and the usefulness of the workshops. Following these some of the workshop participants attended Northumbria University’s Student Law Office for advice on setting up their own businesses. Informal contact is also continuing with leading figures in these communities and through engagement with local voluntary sector groups. Implications - This paper will discuss some of the barriers that refugees face when starting a business and how their migration status impacts on this. It will also consider the recent cuts to the voluntary sector, how this has impacted on many of the groups supporting refugees and the extent to which the University is able to support these communities with business start up. Value - This research aims to identify the barriers which stand in the way of refugees trying to start up businesses, and to suggest measures which might ameliorate the situation, and enable more refugees to become successful business persons, contributing to the UK economy. BRKN (2007) Enterprise for Black and Minority Ethnic Communities, Refugees and Migrants, report by BOW Community Projects, Richardson Howarth LLP, The Knap and Northumbria University for ONE North East.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2013
EventNorthumbria Research Conference - Northumbria University
Duration: 16 May 2013 → …


ConferenceNorthumbria Research Conference
Period16/05/13 → …
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