Matchmaking Talented Refugees With Employers in France

An online platform helps refugees find jobs and companies find motivated, skilled employees.

Action Emploi Refugies has helped 150 refugees find a job
Action Emploi Refugies has helped 150 refugees find a job
Sophie Douce

PARIS — "Hey, that's pretty!" "How's the train?" In this Parisian shop in the 17th arrondissement, a soon-to-be bride is trying on a long satin dress. The candy-pink boudoir is filled with luxurious materials, Calais embroidered collars, lace bustiers and silk chiffon fabrics.

Behind a pile of heavy rolls of cloth, Hafiz Ghanbari, dressed in an impeccable shirt and suit pants, is working on his sewing machine. "Yes, it's a dream job," he admits shyly amid two clanks. 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. He's a member of the Hazara community, persecuted by the Taliban. 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.

I didn't chose Hafiz because he's a refugee, but because he's talented.

Ghanbari has been working for the last six months in this bridal dress 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.

The tailor quickly caught the attention of several recruiters. He got a one-year contract in a sewing workshop and helped create a clothing collection. 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 chose Hafiz because he's a refugee, but because he's talented," the young entrepreneur says.

A talent pool

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. "We wanted to create a simple and innovative solution, using the matchmaking technique, so applicants and recruiters could meet according to their skills," says Brahmbhatt, a Kenyan-born Briton and the association's co-president. "Fifty companies have joined the network," she says, and since the launch, 150 refugees have found jobs.

Working to integrate

For employers, recruiting someone who speaks only a foreign language can be tricky. "I was a bit worried at first because of the language, but Hafiz is a fast learner. He writes all the technical words down and memorizes them. He also uses drawings and hand gestures to get his message across," Marie Laporte explains, amused.

Both for the two enthusiasts, words are mostly unnecessary. They already speak the same language: the fashion language. "He's got a skilled hand, as they say. His movements are precise and quick," his employer observes admiringly. For the young tailor, going from Afghan tapestry workshops to a French designer's showroom was unimaginable; an exceptional journey that has pushed him to prove himself. "I have to double my efforts here, work harder. It's not easy because of the language barrier, but I want to stay here. I don't want to go back to Afghanistan," confides Ghanbari, who takes French lessons on the weekends.

The refugees come here and fill positions no one else wants.

He lives in a seven-square-meter room in public housing in the Val-d'Oise department, north of Paris, about 30 minutes from his workplace.

"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."

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Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.


"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.

➡️


"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.



Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Anyone want to guess Trump's first post on his upcoming social media platform...? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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