‘The asylum process broke my dream … now I have a new one.’ The refugee entrepreneurs

“This was never my plan. I love my country”. I was sat with Thomas (not his real name) in a bustling community centre where he volunteers with fellow refugees and asylum seekers. Thomas, in his 40s, is a tall, athletic man.

This article first appeared in the Conversation

He was directing newcomers towards the lunch station, smiling and answering questions. He offered me a plate and then told me with some pride about one of his defining experiences which happened in 2012. “I had the honour of representing my country in the Olympic Games,” he says, smiling.

Thomas, it turns out, was a Judo master, competing at the highest level and training others. Well respected among the Judo community, his prominence also brought unwanted attention, leading to his flight from his homeland in Africa in 2013. Even now, it is important for his safety that his anonymity is protected.

Sadly, Thomas’ story is far from unique. As the world struggles amid pandemic uncertainty there may be no other group better suited at finding ways to cope than refugees. Restrictions on movement, working and property ownership inhibit the freedom of refugees globally, pushing many into poverty. Yet against this oppressive backdrop refugees show tremendous ingenuity, creating businesses and livelihoods from whatever is available to them.

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To read the full article, by Dr Michelle Richey, Lecturer in Technology and Entrepreneurship, SBE, visit the Conversation.

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