UCLL project helps refugees start their own businesses

Summary

A new programme in Limburg will see mentors helping hundreds of asylum-seekers start their own businesses or get jobs

Assessing local needs

The University College Leuven Limburg (UCLL) in Hasselt, together with London South Bank University and University College Zuyd in the Netherlands, has set up a project to help recognised asylum-seekers start their own businesses or find jobs. The European Commission has provided €600,000 in support of the project.

The project team will look into what the asylum-seekers want to do, what their strengths are and any related education or experience. They will also analyse the obstacles for refugees in starting their own businesses or getting jobs, as well as the needs of employers. 

The team will collaborate with refugee organisations, employment and training agency VDAB, employers’ organisations and entrepreneurs. Every partner will help the team to assess local needs. “There is, for example, a shortage of nurses, ICT specialists and technical staff here,” project co-ordinator Patricia Huion told Het Belang van Limburg.

Mentors will play an important role in the project. Some of them will be fellow refugees with similar backgrounds who set up a successful businesses in Belgium. 

According to Huion, research shows that refugees tend to be successful entrepreneurs because the difficult conditions they have encountered have forced them to develop skills like risk assessment.

The team expects that it will have reached 1,000 refugees over a period of two years and hopes that at least 120 will have started their own enterprise or have steady jobs.