Amsterdam wants best and brightest refugees to stay

Kasja Ollongren (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Vera de Kok). (Kasja Ollongren (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Vera de Kok))

The municipality of Amsterdam wants to take in highly skilled and educated refugees and offer them a chance to start their own business.

Kasja Ollongren, D66 alderwoman of Economic Affairs and deputy mayor of Amsterdam, said this to the Financieele Dagblad on Friday. This forms part of the city council's plan to attract more talent from abroad.

Ollongren told the newspaper that she was inspired to this idea during a recent visit to Tel Aviv in Israel. During the 80's and 90's more than a million Jewish people fled there from Russia, many of them scientists with a technical background, leaving the country with a so-called abundance of brainpower. A program was launched for this group of people so that they could put their cleverness and skill to use. "Roughly said they just put these people together with the mission of discovering something and coming up with a business model", Ollongren explained. "They are now reaping the fruits of this choice."

The alderwoman now wants to try a similar project with the refugees coming into the Netherlands. She believes that this could strengthen the startup environment.

"As a concept I find it interesting and I would like to take the lead here. Let's look at the opportunities offered by the arrival of newcomers instead of saying: what do we do with this", Ollongren said to the newspaper, adding that the refugees will obviously first have to enter Dutch society through an asylum center. "But then I will actively work to offer a number of them the opportunity to get started. It would be fantastic if a few nice startups emerge from this."