“They have come to realise that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom…We cannot walk alone” – Martin Luther King

Refugee Week 2021 runs from 14-20 June. It is an annual event celebrating the contribution of refugees to British society and promoting a better understanding of why people seek sanctuary. The theme for this year is ‘we cannot walk alone’ – a reference to a part of Martin Luther King’s iconic ‘I have a dream speech’. The last year and a bit of the pandemic has shown us the importance of community, solidarity and working together to support each other through the crisis. Refugee Week is all about extending this feeling of community to those fleeing conflict and persecution.

At the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million people forcibly displaced from their homes due to war, conflict or persecution for just being who they are. Whilst the majority are internally displaced within their home country there are 26 million who have sought protection as refugees in other countries, with around 4.2 million asylum seekers still waiting to hear whether they will be given legal protection in their new homes. The few thousands that arrive in the UK face a whole new set of barriers within our own bureaucratic asylum system facing a culture of disbelief from officials, being denied the right to work whilst waiting for claims to be processed and having to get by with minimal levels of support of just £5.66 a day. This is not to mention the trauma of finding yourself in a new country, separated from the people you love and where you may not speak the language.

In the face of a system stacked against asylum seekers and refugees, many social enterprises have been set up to help these groups find new communities of support as well as offering training, mentoring and employment. For Refugee Week we’ve put together this short list of just a few of the incredible social enterprises working to ensure that refugees are welcomed, supported and their contributions acknowledged.

Breadwinners

Breadwinners is a social enterprise supporting refugees and asylum seekers into employment by selling artisan fresh bread. They provide jobs, work experience, training and mentoring for refugees and asylum seekers both through their London farmers market stalls and through their online e-commerce platform. As asylum seekers are unable to work whilst a decision is being made on their claim, Breadwinners runs a volunteering programme to help people gain experience and also to let them meet friendly faces and build a sense of community. So far 110 refugees and young people seeking asylum have graduated through their programmes with 90% of participants progressing into employment.

We interviewed Martin Cosarinsky Campos and market manager Jamal last year (who arrived as an asylum seeker from Sudan) who told us more about their work, the barriers facing refugees and asylum seekers and how COVID-19 has made Breadwinners change how it works.

Find out more and buy your own fresh bread from their website.

Breadwinners have also just published their 2020 Impact Report which goes into more detail about the incredible things this small social enterprise has managed to achieve over what’s been a difficult year.

Clear Voice

Clear Voice Interpreting Services offers interpreting and translation services for organisations across different sectors, donating 100% of profits towards supporting victims of displacement and exploitation through its parent charity Migrant Help. Clear Voice Interpreting services has navigated the challenges created by COVID- 19 by providing pro-bono translation work, implementing a new video interpreting service and by gaining more customers in the charity sector. Read their story and top tips here.

Micro Rainbow

There are still 76 nations where homosexuality is illegal with many LGBTI individuals from these countries being forced to flee their homes just because their sexuality puts their life at risk. Around 1,500 LGBTI refugees come to the UK each year but arriving here does not mean they are safe. As well as facing the racism felt by so many migrants, they also face the additional burdens of homophobic and transphobic abuse. Some are rejected by their ethnic community and face abuse in government-provided accommodation. Too many become homeless and suffer additional mental health issues.

Micro Rainbow is a social enterprise which exists to support LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees providing safe-houses across the UK. They also run social inclusion programmes, helping people build new support networks, and provide moving on services supporting individuals who are given refugee status to begin their life in the UK and find work. Find out more in this short film made for SEUK by Moud Goba, Project Manager at Micro Rainbow and a refugee from Zimbabwe who runs through how they work and the main challenges faced by LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees.

Migrateful

Migrateful are a social enterprise which runs cookery classes led by refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who struggling to integrate and access employment. Each chef gets to share their own skills and dishes from their native cultures, building cross-cultural exchange and increasing their confidence. Migrateful’s work helps increase wellbeing, employability and integration providing a wider social network, improved English language and communication skills and also a vital source of income. During Covid-19, the social enterprise shifted its classes online and ran a successful Crowdfunder to ensure the businesses survival. In-person sessions have now started up again.

Find out more on the Migrateful website. We were also delighted to feature the social enterprise in our Social Enterprise Stories series which told the story of Majeda, who fled the civil war in Syria and through the help of Migrateful set up her own catering company.

NEMI Teas

NEMI Teas is a specialist tea company selling quality teas which provides employment to refugees to help them build local work experiences and help them enter the UK workforce. This is done by offering work placements at their tea stalls. All their teas are Fairtrade certified, their tea bags plastic-free and their packaging biodegradable.

Since launching four years ago, NEMI Teas has sold over 7 million teabags and supported 18 refugees into employment and further education. Find out more and buy some of their teas by visiting their website.

Nemi Teas breakfast refugee week social enterprise uk

TERN

What mainstream narratives often don’t mention when writing about asylum seekers and refugees is that many are entrepreneurs wanting to set up businesses and contribute to the economy, with many having business experience and qualifications in their home country. TERN (The  Entrepreneurial Refugee Network) is a social enterprise which supports refugee entrepreneurs in the creation and development of their businesses, providing services throughout three stages of the entrepreneurial process: business exploration, business start-up and business growth. Their mission is to enable refugees to thrive through the power of their own ideas and aim to have helped launch 1000 refugee-led businesses by 2025. Find out more about TERN and some of the over 200 refugee-led businesses they have helped set up on their website.

For more information visit:

UNHCR – https://www.unhcr.org/uk/figures-at-a-glance.html

Refugee Action – https://www.refugee-action.org.uk/about/facts-about-refugees/