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“All the business of war, and indeed all the business of life, is to endeavour to find out what you don’t know from what you do.” – Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

"My dear. A lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears. "
- Violet in Downton Abbey

"By perseverance the snail reached the ark. "
- Charles Spurgeon

"Not all those who wander are lost."

26 december 2012

Good news: A rare success story of refugee integration in Bulgaria

Finding a job is crucial for refugees finding their feet in a new country. Not just to earn a living, but also to integrate and make links with the local community.

But in Bulgaria, for most refugees finding a job and making ends meet is an arduous task.

Typically, they don't yet know the language, cannot navigate the local labour market or face difficulties having their qualifications recognized. Some face discrimination by employers and co-workers and many settle for illegal work, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

The Iraqi Palestinian family, Sammy and Maha Mahmud and their four daughters, buck the trend: they are among the few refugees in Bulgaria who have managed to set up their own business and run it so successfully that they are now self-reliant. On a dairy farm near the village of Ezero, some 15km from the Banya Reception Centre where they lived while waiting for their refugee claims to be decided, the family raises goats and cows to produce milk, cheese and yoghurt.

Using traditional skills and knowledge she brought with her from Iraq, and an old family recipe, Maha makes cheese that attracts buyers from around the country. Some regular customers come from a far as Sofia, almost 230 km away, for the coveted Arabic version of white cheese, Djiben abiot.

In just two years, the Mahmuds have become the leading providers of milk, yoghurt and cheese in Ezero, also selling their products to the folks of Nova Zagora, 4 km away. The family makes about 15 euros a day from the farm, enough for them to maintain a healthy life style and even reinvest in the business. The couple is now planning to buy more land, extend the business and open a professional dairy farm.

© UNHCR/Gy. Sopronyi

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