Published:  01:05 AM, 13 May 2019

Afghan refugee entrepreneurs thrive in Turkey

Afghan refugee entrepreneurs thrive in Turkey Afghan employees of an Afghan Kebab restaurant are at work in Esenyurt district in Istanbul. -AFP

When Afghan businessman Haji Yakup Burhan fled the violence of his home country 30 years ago, he brought with him his family - and all his money.He headed to Saudi Arabia, where he opened a restaurant but, as refugees, his children had difficulty getting into a school. Then he moved to the United Arab Emirates, but Dubai's costs seemed impossible.

So, two years ago, he moved to Turkey and opened a restaurant in Istanbul's Esenyurt neighborhood, taking advantage of the country's relatively open business environment for refugees, reports AFP."I have 15 people working for me in this restaurant. They are Afghans, Iranians and Turks.

"I have invested about $120,000 (107,000 euros) in this restaurant so far," Burhan, 52, told AFP at his Afghan Kebab establishment. "Over 60 percent of our customers are Afghans living here. The rest are Arabs, Iranians and Turks," he said.

Afghan refugee entrepreneurs appear to be increasingly finding success in Turkey, where they bring to the local economy, not only their savings, but sought-after know-how, whether in restaurants, commerce or skilled crafts and specialties.

In turn, Turkey offers refugees simplified administrative procedures for setting up a new business. Turkey hosts nearly four million refugees, with Syrians making up the largest group, but Afghans number more than 145,000, according to Amnesty International figures released last year. Some people in Turkey view refugees as a burden, but a different picture emerges in Burhan's bustling Istanbul suburb, where refugees like him have made significant investment in the Turkish economy.

Inside Burhan's restaurant, a TV blares Afghan channels showing Turkish soap operas over the hum of customers eating the popular Afghan dish Qabeli Palaw - rice with lamb meat and mixed with caramelised carrots, raisins and almond slivers.


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