Founders not scroungers: The business case for welcoming refugees

As the legal battle rages on around Donald Trump’s chaotic travel ban and moratorium on refugees, you could be forgiven for thinking that the West faces an existential threat unparalleled in its history.

Yet as politicians rush to placate and at times inflate public fears about the negative impact of refugees on jobs, public services and national security, a growing body of research strongly suggests that refugees – far from being passive welfare claimants – create businesses and jobs wherever they go. Instead of accelerating the West’s economic decline, refugees might just be a part of the solution.


So starts this great article by Maximilian Yoshioka, a lead researcher at the Centre for Entrepreneurs.

Having travelled and lived in many countries around the world, I can add to the debate about refugees with a more positive understanding. When immigrants (or refugees) arrive in their new host country, they not only bring interesting traditions of their own to the host society, but also come with a  ‘fresh pair of eyes’.  That is to say, they can see potential in stuff that long-time residents take for granted. If you add to this their desire to better their lives, you end up with people with drive and ambition than can only add to the sum total of the economy.

Just check out this short list of tech firms that were founded by immigrants or their children. And those are just the big ticket contributions in the tech industry. Western countries thrive because of immigrants – which is one of the reasons the USA has always done so much better than the rest. The USA is after all a nation built on immigration.

Similarly, Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre has done some interesting research with refugees in places like Africa and Syria, which shows that even under the desperate conditions of refugee camps, thriving micro-economies pop up. Migrants really don’t hand about just depending on hand-outs. They get on with life as best they can.

Find out more about this research: below is one of many reports I designed for the Centre, this one specifically about Refugee Economies. It reveals some interesting data.



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