The desire for independence

By Audrey SomnardLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

Faced with great difficulties in finding work, refugees often have no choice but to start their own business. This is a blessing in disguise for people who are used to getting by, but they still have to struggle with the complexities of Luxembourg's administration and the demands of banks. The association Touchpoints helps them.

About 200 people a year come to Touchpoints for information. This results in between 10 and 15 business start-ups every year. The association differs from the many incubators in the country, its objective is quite different: "Our ambition is not to coach entrepreneurs with strategic support for their project. Our goal is to inform as many people as possible about the administrative hazards, the documents that are required, the steps to take. In general, these people know their trade, which is what they did in their country of origin. They don't need help in this area. But we take a lot of time to guide them on the basics of setting up a business, we have a lot of experience with exceptional cases", explains Fabienne Colling, director of the non-profit organisation Touchpoints.

She helps refugees and third-country nationals to start their own business because "it is often because of a lack of alternatives on the labour market, or because they see no prospects for development" that starting a business is open to them, says Ms Colling. Language barriers, lack of recognition of diplomas and skills, these people are generally lost.

A grocery shop, like in Syria with his father

Assad Halabe is behind the counter of his grocery shop on Rue de Bonnevoie in Luxembourg, filling bags of pine nuts, with his two employees. He arrived in Luxembourg in 2016 from Aleppo, after a long journey through the Middle East and Europe, when he was 26 years old. He quickly obtained his refugee status, but the employment situation had become increasingly difficult. I left with nothing, I couldn't stay and be conscripted into the army, I had to leave", explains the young man who speaks almost perfect French. Languages were a prerequisite before tackling the Luxembourg job market: "I had a contact person at Touchpoints who spoke Arabic, which helped me a lot. Even before I found a job, he advised me to learn French", says Assad.

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