By Pranav Chopra
The recent conflict in Syria, and across other countries in the world, has created an influx of refugees who are allocated new homes in the European Union and specifically in the United Kingdom. The increased numbers have challenged countries to provide sufficient support to help these refugees integrate and assimilate. It is integral that this "dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of the U.K." occurs as seamless as possible.
The rising anti-immigrant sentiments from some politicians and the media have instilled a fear into nationals about these foreigners. This is not the best atmosphere for these refugees who have experienced trauma over a period of years and now face long waits to decide on their future. The U.K. refugee agencies and government are inundated with applications and doing their best to find the right support, but it is a long and arduous process. The need to act urgently to support integration focusing especially on equality and inclusion during the process is essential.
The importance of these two factors when integrating is eloquently relayed by Donna Covey in the Refugee Council conference report (2009):
"… When people flee persecution, the flight to safety is only the first part of their journey. The second stage – rebuilding life in a strange land – is equally important. Sometimes settling here can be as hard or harder than the original flight from tyranny. Integration is not about ‘fitting in,' or about refugees becoming ‘more like us.' It is, rather, about equality and inclusion, and ensuring that refugees have equal chances to live full, safe and productive lives."
Chaigaram is one such social-purpose business that is looking to tackle this issue head on by providing refugees with employment opportunities to empower them to feel a part of the British society. The social enterprise set up a franchise of tea stalls across London food markets selling Indian tea which is freshly prepared and sold by refugees. The same refugees also manage and operate the stalls. This allows refugees to interact with the locals and work on their English language skills, gain confidence, and develop basic business skills which are necessary for them to work towards a career of their choice. The refugees are also involved in preparing specialist Indian tea blends which are sold at both retail and wholesale level across the U.K.
Such efforts resonate with Carnegie Council's conclusion: "It is time for us all to take responsibility for our future. What we do now in relation to the families who have arrived and will arrive affects future opportunity for all of us. We can genuinely welcome people, accept them as part of our world, support them to have the same opportunities as us, and adapt to our increased diversity, or we can exclude them and await the social and economic consequences."
Image credit: Flickr/Alisdare Hickson
Pranav Chopra, an ex-corporate junkie and a passionate social innovator, has worked across various jurisdictions on several strategy projects and is now looking to utilize his expertise to do good. He is heavily involved in a number of ventures with a social development agenda at their core ranging from helping refugees integrate in the UK through job creation, tackling the issue of illiteracy in India through the power of tourism, using technology to improve the lives of the deaf, promoting fair-trade and organic produce and reducing food wastage in Australia.