Nicosia, 31 October 2022 – The UNHCR Country Office in Cyprus hosted a workshop on access to financial services for asylum-seekers and refugees on 14 October 2022. The workshop brought together key stakeholders from the financial sector, governmental departments, NGOs and refugee entrepreneurs to discuss the challenges experienced by the refugee population in Cyprus and explore opportunities for their financial inclusion that is vital for their integration.
“Having access to financial services is essential for refugee integration, and a condition for them to become self-reliant. Without a bank account or a payment service, without a loan or grant of a micro-credit to buy a house or set up a business, a refugee’s path to inclusion will be even harder to achieve,” said Katja Saha, UNHCR Representative in Cyprus in her opening remarks. In welcoming the participants, Ms. Saha made particular reference to refugee entrepreneurs who took part in the workshop, stating that their stories “dispel the current narrative that refugees are a burden, or a threat. On the contrary: They are a stark reminder that by removing the barriers, we will allow asylum seekers and refugees to contribute to stronger, safer and more vibrant communities.”
The workshop provided a platform for participants to share good practices, create networks and to propose solutions in addressing barriers as well as in supporting refugees with an entrepreneurial profile to set up or grow their businesses. Some of the key proposals made by the participants were: the creation of an online platform in various languages to guide start-up businesses; the development of business incubators and mentoring programs focusing on networking, financing and marketing assistance; and the establishment of co-working arrangements and shared workspaces for refugee entrepreneurs. UNHCR and participants made a commitment to pursue follow-up discussions and actions, including with the European Funds Unit – Asylum and Migration Fund and other governmental authorities, local authorities and academia.
UNHCR Representative in Cyprus, Katja Saha highlighted the benefits of inclusion of refugees and asylum-seekers for the host society. © UNHCR Cyprus
UNHCR Cyprus Protection Associate George Ailiotis spoke about the gaps in the financial integration of refugees in Cyprus, and the current challenges and the improvements made. © UNHCR Cyprus
Senior Livelihood and Economic Inclusion Officer of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau, Susanne Klink shared examples of good practices from other countries. © UNHCR Cyprus
Participants at UNHCR Cyprus Financial Inclusion for refugees workshop discuss concrete solutions for refugees and asylum-seekers to overcome challenges. © UNHCR Cyprus
UNHCR Protection Associate George Ailiotis spoke about the gaps in the integration of refugees in Cyprus, and the current challenges as well as improvements in the financial inclusion of asylum-seekers and refugees. Senior Livelihood and Economic Inclusion Officer of UNHCR’s Europe Bureau, Susanne Klink shared examples of good practices from other countries, micro-credit options and lessons learned as well as alternative risk mitigation strategies for Financial Service Providers serving refugees. The European Investment Fund (EIF) presented the difficulties facing microenterprises in accessing loans and credit, and the importance of accessible microfinance products in enabling refugee/migrant entrepreneurship and the importance of the broader term inclusive finance for entrepreneurship and migrants.
The workshop participants included refugee entrepreneurs/business owners; the Central Bank of Cyprus; the Association of Cyprus Banks; the Bank of Cyprus; the Human Resource Development Authority of Cyprus; the European Investment Fund; the European Funds Unit – Ministry of Interior; the Labour Department of the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance; the Asylum Service; the Deputy Ministry of Tourism; the Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry; the Information and Training Center for Employment and Entrepreneurship in Vulnerable Groups; the Multifunctional Centre of the Nicosia Municipality; the Cyprus Refugee Council; CARITAS; the Center for Social Innovation (CSI) and the Center for Social Cohesion, Development and Care (CODECA).
For more information about the workshop, and to express your interest in participating in related further actions, please contact the UNHCR Country Office in Cyprus by telephone or email at [email protected].