Despite struggles, many Syrian refugees’ businesses are gaining traction

In News by MIIC

The opening of the Oasis Mediterranean Grill in Peterborough, Ont. (Joel Weibe/Downtown Peterborough)

Mohammad Alftih fled his war-torn hometown of Aleppo, Syria, with his wife and four children, living in Lebanon before coming to Canada under private sponsorship. Eleven months after the Alftihs arrived in Peterborough, Ont., they opened a new restaurant downtown.

Mr. Alftih brings his experience operating two businesses in Syria to his new role as general manager of Oasis Mediterranean Grill. His wife, Randa, cooks Syrian dishes, and the couple has hired four employees.

“Canadian people, they came and came and came,” says Mr. Alftih, describing the opening of his new business in December, 2016. “They encouraged me and supported me. For that reason, I did well.”

Across Canada, Syrian newcomers-turned-business owners are finding their footing. Some entrepreneurs, like Mr. Alftih, have opened storefront businesses, while others continue to build them out of their basements or local markets.

Between November, 2015, and January, 2017, 40,081 Syrians arrived in Canada. Entrepreneurship can be the path of least resistance for those newcomers, says Alex LeBlanc, managing director of the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, which has overseen the province’s resettlement efforts of government-assisted refugees.

“If you come and your credentials aren’t recognized, there’s a language barrier, employers are reluctant to hire you, then starting and running your own business can be a great way to earn a living,” he says.

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