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June 21, 2017

Ramie Taher: Refugees and entrepreneurial spirit

June 21, 2017

Ramie Taher is a senior majoring in finance with minors in economics and international business.

I am Syrian and lived there most of my childhood until the war started. I was born in the United States and lived here for five years before moving to Syria. I left Syria in 2012, just a year after the situation started. My family went to Beirut, Lebanon for a year and a half then we moved to Dubai, UAE. I did my senior year there until I decided to come back to the United States for a better education. 

I've always encouraged people around me to look at the possible economic benefits of accepting refugees rather than just looking at the possible costs, and the second I saw the article on the Economist "Immigrants are bringing entrepreneurial flair to Germany", I knew that I had to look into it more and write about it. 

The word refugees has been thrown around quite often recently ever since Syrians began to escape the war and travel to Europe through both legal and illegal means of transportation. Some booked a flight and travelled to Europe and applied for asylum or refugee status, while some risked their lives and went through the toughest journey any of us could imagine to get to Europe. Most of the world’s refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

There is no doubt that the impact of the inflow of refugees into a country is very controversial. They have been welcomed by some and rejected by some. Some look toward the benefits and some look at the disadvantages of allowing in refugees. I’m Syrian American and was raised in Syria from the age of five to 16. Whenever I talk about the refugee situation, many people tend to look at the monetary cost of refugees and their burden on society, and tend to forget about the humanitarian, social and economic benefits of welcoming them.

In Europe, a couple of countries opened their hands wide open and welcomed in a substantial amount of refugees, such as Sweden and Germany. They were able to welcome massive amounts of refugees and give them their basic rights as humans again. Studies show that out of all the countries that accepted refugees in the Europe, Germany and Sweden will benefit the most due to the positive effects on economic growth and employment rates. In addition to their superior treatment of refugees, they were able to turn what was considered a disadvantage into an asset.

As we have seen in the past, immigrants commonly come with a strong entrepreneurial spirit in their back pockets. Businesses founded by immigrants create employment for both immigrants and locals, encourage integration, and bring diversity to society. One reason why refugees are even more enthusiastic about start-ups is that they are, by the nature of their journey, risk-takers. They risked everything to reach Europe in order to hit the restart button. Let’s not forget that finding a job in the labor market is extremely difficult; therefore, dealing with the logistics and bureaucracy of opening a business and obtaining a line of credit hardly stands in their way.

Germans are universally known for their hard work and efficiency, but not innovation. In 2014, Germany fell significantly behind the U.S. in entrepreneurial activity rate, as well as behind Sweden, Britain, Spain, France and Italy. However, in 2015, 44 percent of newly registered business in Germany were founded by people with foreign passports. Experts believe this number is expected to rise sharply with the additional influx of around 300,000 refugees in 2016. A significant portion of the new business activity in 2016 was started by people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the end of the day, refugees don’t want to leave their countries, they are forced out due to the inhospitable environment that their countries have reached. They are seeking safety, their basic rights as humans again, and want to reset their lives and make a living. In my personal opinion, accepting in refugees and setting up the right programs for them is by far one of the most respectable and astounding actions a country can do.