Invest in refugees

Addis Tesfa was a journalist in Ethiopia before he was forced to flee as a political refugee. Now a student of International Financial Management at the RUG, he questions the extent to which European universities pay attention to the problems for immigrants and how to solve them.

Governments continue to accept legal refugees due to different motives, be they economical, social, traditional or political. Media can play either a very negative or positive role in this process. Few media sources seek to explain the benefits of immigrants and refugees in the long run and in fact end up indirectly promoting hatred instead. It is not uncommon to read newspapers with headlines referring to ‘the flood of refugees in Europe’ and stating that ‘Europe has lost its traditional reputation because of refugees’, or claiming that ‘refugees are a source of racism’.

In contrast to that rhetoric, European member countries such as the Netherlands have special programmes which help legal refugees to integrate with their society. Language lessons, higher education opportunities, sponsorship for the children of refugees and cultural orientation are some of the programmes that the government of the Netherlands has, even though there are anti-refugee political parties in the parliament.

It’s also true that some ordinary people, devoted religious men and women excepted, seem to think that refugees are an economic burden to their country. Nevertheless, few governmental or community groups refuse to provide the necessary support to those in need. The Netherlands is a land of opportunity where rules and regulations are clear and the system is well designed. But this does not mean the Netherlands is heaven to immigrants, and here and there we can have unpleasant encounters.


According to a case research conducted by Benton et al. (2014), ‘newly arrived immigrants in Europe often struggle to gain a secure foothold in the labor market, as a result of limited language proficiency, discrimination, and difficulties having their qualifications recognized’, as well as having a hard time indicating how their skills and experience meet employer’s needs.

It would be wise to see what problems refugees face, ranging from their neighbourhoods to their studies at university; from low-level work to the high-level professional commitment; and from simple groups to leadership opportunities. They are fighting every day to win their personal race. These challenges make refugees even stronger.

Here lies my objective in writing this article. Universities like the RUG should conduct research into this subject, especially focusing on those refugees who study here who can play a very important role. According to the above-mentioned research, employment gaps between native and foreign-born workers not only persist but have also widened since the onset of the global economic crisis with particularly significant effects on women, migrants who come on any visa aside from a work visa and immigrants who come from outside the European Union.


Refugees have the potential to be extremely productive human resources. That is why I think that if somebody loves Europe, he or she should love and invest in refugees. In my experience, most refugees who were professionals in their home countries have visions, wishes and dreams. Motivating them and supporting their financial freedom, training them to unleash their potential and giving assurances for their future can make them highly productive.

Refugees know at least two or more different cultures. They know two or more political systems. They are aware of at least two or more bureaucratic chains. They can adapt to new challenges in a successful manner. In general, they can be ambassadors for both their home and the country they live in.

The Netherlands is a country which helps immigrants to integrate, but because of the culture of personal independence within Dutch society, one is forced to ask in order to get something. This means that opportunities are not spoon-fed. As a result of this, only a few immigrants can truly use their opportunities properly.

To the best of my knowledge, little research is done concerning immigrants, particularly refugees. I couldn’t find sufficient research about the problems and solutions for refugees, the productiveness of refugees, the benefits or disadvantages of helping refugees to integrate in the society, etc.

Mutually beneficial

Personally, I have taken four courses which emphasize cultural issues, yet I haven’t seen any instructors who tried to apply these theories with their students. I know that there are a lot of refugees and international students who struggle to adapt to the new educational system. Refugee students from outside of Europe face a completely different educational system, new competition, and complicated communication.

Professors are willing to help to answer questions concerning their subject matter, and I admire and appreciate the refugee students who are able to adapt and succeed in their study. But how can a professor who teaches about different cultures and says it is important to treat national cultures according to their norms and traditions not treat a student who comes from a different culture differently, too?

The conditions that lead to refugee crises vary. Political situations are only temporarily, and the age of dictators is almost over. Ethical issues, rules and regulations, academic performances, corporate social responsibility, environmental issues, national pride, technological advancements, institutionalisation, internalisation and other issues can be designed for security, peace and prosperity of citizens. Now, our world needs skilled leadership and professionals. If Europe invests in refugees, it may cost millions, but the outcome will be billions of euros that are mutually beneficial.

After fleeing from Ethiopia, where he established his own newspaper Goggle, Addis Tesla now studies International Financial Management at the RUG.