Behind a pile of heavy rolls of cloth, in a Parisian bridal dress shop, Hafiz Ghanbari, works on his sewing machine. This 27-year-old Afghan refugee has been through a lot. He fled war in his hometown of Ghanzi, Afghanistan when he was 9. "My family was in danger there. I was afraid I was going to die," he remembers. After 15 years in exile in Iran, where he learned to sew in carpet shops, he moved to Norway and worked odd jobs, until finally obtaining asylum in France in 2015.
With his refugee status, he can now work — a relief for this self-taught upholsterer, whose wife, father and sister still live in Afghanistan. "I had to earn money at any cost so I could integrate," he says.
Ghanbari has been working for the last six months in this shop, thanks to the digital platform Action Emploi Réfugiés (AERé). "The founder of the website spotted my profile. She called me and offered to send my resume," he says.
In September, his profile caught the eye of the wedding dress designer Marie Laporte. "It was the first time I heard about such a procedure. I hesitated at first, it's true, but I needed someone. I didn't choose Hafiz because he's a refugee, but because he’s talented," the young entrepreneur says.
Created a year ago, AERé’s goal is to help "exiled talents" find jobs in France.
"Work is the first factor for integration. Our approach is a pragmatic one, these people are trained, sometimes highly educated and qualified. It’s a talent pool," says the co-founder, Kavita Brahmbhatt, a UN consultant who worked with refugees for 15 years. Doctors, professors, engineers, kitchen chefs, or florists, their journeys are all very different. The platform has already received more than 450 refugee applications.
To register, job-seekers simply upload their resume or create one on the website. They are then referenced according to their location, qualifications, languages, etc. Recruiters just need to choose.
"Refugees are very resourceful. They have lived through horrors, fled their country to come here. Learning a new language is not the worst thing they have to face," says Brahmbhatt.
In order to be able to work, some do not hesitate to change professions. The platform has many ads for jobs in the food industry and manufacturing. "The refugees come here and fill positions no one else wants, like in construction, services, difficult jobs," says El Mouhoud Mouhoud, an economics professor at Paris-Dauphine University.
But prejudice runs deep. The association often receives xenophobic messages through its Facebook page, blaming it for "preferring foreigners over the French."
To this Brahmbhatt replies, "A working refugee is a better integrated refugee and an asset to society."
The above article was sourced from World Crunch and can be read in its entirety here.