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Exploring the entrepreneurial intentions of Syrian refugees in the UK

Suzanne Mawson (Department of Management, Work and Organisation, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)
Laila Kasem (University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 12 February 2019

Issue publication date: 5 August 2019




Few studies have sought to explore the issue of entrepreneurial intention (EI) within refugees, despite wide recognition of refugee entrepreneurial potential. The purpose of this paper is to explore EI among recently arrived Syrian refugees in the UK, including the role that their migration experience plays in shaping these intentions.


This paper follows an interpretive phenomenological research approach, contextualised within the EI literature. It draws on data collected from in-depth interviews with nine Syrian refugees, five of whom arrived independently and four of whom arrived via the UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme.


All participants were found to have strong perceptions of desirability towards entrepreneurship. Individuals who arrived independently demonstrated more confidence in their abilities, and in turn somewhat stronger start-up intentions. The findings indicate that the personal development of independent refugee arrivals linked to their migration experiences may help shape the intention to engage in entrepreneurship.

Research limitations/implications

As this paper draws on a small sample in a single geographic location, the findings presented are phenomenological, context specific and not necessarily applicable to other spatial locations or to other (refugee) groups.

Social implications

A number of practical and social implications are provided. Support interventions focussed on strengthening the perceived abilities and capabilities of refugees would be of considerable benefit.


This paper provides new and important insight into the nature of EI within a novel focal group. It makes a valuable contribution to the literature by considering the issues of context and process, specifically the relationship between personal forced migration experience and the perceived capability to start a business.



Mawson, S. and Kasem, L. (2019), "Exploring the entrepreneurial intentions of Syrian refugees in the UK", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 1128-1146.



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