Refugee entrepreneurs in the spotlight for local business week

Strategic Migration Partnership shines a light on project’s successes

The region’s Strategic Migration Partnership (SMP) has supported more than 170 refugees this year – including many who have set up their own businesses in the region.

The SMP, alongside organisations such as MENTA, provide a range of support, including English language courses, training, business coaching and help accessing counselling.

Among those that have been helped is Ukrainian refugee Yuriy Manzhos, who was living in Bila Tserva, south of Kyiv, when Russia invaded in February last year.

Yuriy and his family moved to Poland for a short time before coming to the UK as part of the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ Programme.

He said: “We were downright lucky when we moved to the UK especially with a powerful Ukrainian community that has formed in Felixstowe, where we moved.

“In addition, many British people immediately began to help us.

“I believe that the adaptation process was quite successful. And we really like it here.”

While working as a business coach in Ukraine, Yuriy began developing educational board games for children, designed to improve their maths, language and geography skills.

Thanks to support from the SMP and MENTA, Yuriy is planning to launch his first board game in the next two months.

Since it was launched in 2020, the SMP’s Wellbeing and Work for Refugee Integration project (WW4RI) has supported more than 1,500 refugees.

Working closely with the statutory, volunteer, private and community sectors, the project provides a range of support for refugees wanting to enter the world of work, as well assisting businesses to be ‘refugee ready’.

Mother-of-three Boshra Hasan was studying in the UK when war broke out in her home country of Syria.

“I came here in 2010 to study and to do a masters and a PhD,” she said.

“Then the war happened and I couldn’t go back.”

As she spoke good English, Boshra started working for an organisation supporting refugees resettle.

Looking to further her career as an interpreter, Boshra, who now lives in Colchester, contacted MENTA and the SMP for advice and assistance.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do them without the support and funding from MENTA,” she said.

“I would recommend to any other refugees to look for support – the help is there.

“The problem is many refugees don’t know about these services – it’s so important to spread the word as much as we can.

“I know a lot of refugees who have lots of skills but just need a little help, a little push in the right direction.

“There is help out there like MENTA and the Strategic Migration Partnership they can use.

“With that help they can really flourish.”

Ferzana Kusair, High Skills Employment Advisor at the SMP said: “Refugees have a huge positive impact on the region’s economy.

“There is a wealth of talent and experience among refugees and we want to help match employers with the perfect employee.

“Many refugees, like Yuriy and Boshra, want to build businesses of their own but just need some advice and support to make it happen.”

For more on the SMP and its work helping refugees into work, visit