Syrian Refugee wins European Migrant Entrepreneur Awards

Obada Otabashi recieves his Award from Grant Lines, Chief Revenue Officer MoneyGram

Syrian refugee Obada Otabashi (Belgium), Scottish-born Lawrence Richards (Germany) and Giuliano Dore (UK) were the three top winners at the first European MoneyGram Awards 2019 on Thursday 7 November in Brussels. The awards ceremony rewarded migrant entrepreneurs for supporting local economies and reinforcing integration in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Lawrence Richards, Obada Otabashi & Giuliano Dore

Giuliano won the Innovation Award. He was born and raised in Belgium as the son of Italian immigrants. After his graduation he wanted to discover the world and he worked for one year in Canada. After his return to Belgium it was time for him to decide where his path should lead him and he decided to move to London. Without friends and family and with just enough money for one month he should find his happiness here. Today Giuliano is the founder and owner of GetGroomed, the first booking platform for barbershops.

Lawrence (Social Engagement Award) was born in South Africa, where his father was on tour singing, and before he turned one they moved back to Scotland. Throughout his childhood he performed in various operas and musicals. When he was 12, his father’s contract at Glasgow opera house ran out and in order for them to stay together, the family had to move to Germany. At first it was very tough to adapt to this completely foreign culture. Not speaking any German at all, it took a while to integrate properly, but nowadays he is very happy there and has his own family in Wiesbaden.

Obada (Growth Award) was forced to leave Syria when he was 16 -first he was in Egypt with his family for a couple of years. But then he was also forced to leave Egypt too -but this time alone by himself. He tried three times to get to Europe and he really had three horrible journeys until he arrived Europe. He loves living in Belgium but Obada has faced several problems, especially discrimination. E.g. he had troubles to rent a flat, troubles to find a job, even to get a volunteering position. So he decided to create job for himself and for other people in a similar situation-newcomers to Belgium fleeing from war and persecution.

Social Engagement Winners with Michael Schütze & Sabine de Bethune

Several representatives of MoneyGram and prominent guests participated at the award ceremony, including Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Management, Sabine de Bethune, Senator and Honorary President of the Belgian Senate, Ibrahim Ouassari, entrepreneur & tech incubator and, Pierre Kompany, Mayor of Ganshoren.

EU Commissioner Christos Stylianides in charge of humanitarian aid & crisis management said: “I believe these awards are a wonderful example of what can be achieved when we remain true to our European values. When we create an environment that welcomes and empowers people and fosters innovation. Every participant today is a living proof of empowerment and determination. It is also proof that people do not want charity. They want a fair chance to shape their life and pursue their dreams.”

Michael Schütze, Head of MoneyGram Europe said: “When we talk about successful integration, we usually talk about the willingness to accept new cultural challenges and finally about building a new existence in a new country. Today I look at you and I see people who have not only made Europe their home, but an entrepreneurial breeding ground for their success.”

MoneyGram, an international company, specialised in money transfers and payment services, is funding also several integration projects in the UK, Italy and France and is the main driver behind the European MoneyGram Migrant Awards.

In the UK, the company is supporting numerous integration projects in the frame of the PARTICIPATE. iNTEGRATION (https://www.participate-integration.eu/) initiative and in the areas of sport, education and culture. One of the most exiting projects is “Feel at Home” aiming to bring communities together to create video messages around integration and belonging, and produce video resources on how we can all play a role in making integration happen.

In Italy, MoneyGram is supporting the COFFE BREAK project of the Fondazione Leone Moressa (www.fondazioneleonemoressa.org), a research institute based in Venice, dedicated to the study of the economics of immigration. The project aims at promoting an understanding of the migratory phenomenon in Italy based on reliable official data, in order to unmask and weaken the main fake news concerning this field.

Another interesting project in Italy, is Le Mie Radici, a drawing & painting contest for children of Italian residents and adolescents born abroad or with at least one parent from another country.

Italian innovation finalist Andreea Arnautu with Stavros Papagianneas

In France, MoneyGram is supporting Action Emploi Réfugiés (www.actionemploirefugies.com), a service network that brings employers and refugees together. The objective of this organisation is to restore dignity to individuals in exile, and facilitate their journey towards economic inclusion.

Despite several studies showing that migration represents a positive contribution to the countries of destination, a large part of Europeans believe that it’s more a cost rather than a benefit. However, immigration is not only about asylum. Immigrants complement native-born workers and raise general productivity through entrepreneurship and innovation. Contrary to what some populists tell us, immigrants strengthen the EU economy by filling jobs in important industries, starting businesses and creating new products.

Migration is a great tool to fight poverty in the world. Societies that incorporate people from different ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds are also technologically more advanced.

Stavros Papagianneas

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