Intrare, founded in 2018 by the young German Hannah Töpler, seeks to insert refugees in Mexico into the country’s labor market.
Through her work in Mexico with the international non-governmental organization Oxfam, Hannah Töpler was able to take a close look at the phenomenon of migration. Reports and people aware of the subject made him notice that little by little Mexico was ceasing to be the country of transit for migrants to the United States to now be the destination. This led her to wonder how these migrants and refugees would insert themselves into the formal Mexican labor market to rebuild their lives.
“I began to see that the refugees were facing many barriers to integrating in Mexico. They had difficulty finding formal jobs and therefore they were in very precarious situations, they could not provide for their families with whom they came or those from their country of origin. At the same time, employers in Mexico did not know what a refugee was, much less how to hire one,” says Töpler in an interview with Forbes México.
With this in mind, in 2018 he founded Intrare, a kind of recruitment agency to place migrants and refugees in formal Mexican companies. Two years after taking the first step, he took the second, even more defining one: resigning from his position at Oxfam to focus 100% of his time on this work. So far, Töpler and his team have managed to place 80 people in different companies, thus also benefiting 160 relatives.
She, originally from Germany and a former resident of London (where she did her master’s degree in Political Science), knows the barriers that a foreign person seeking to place in the formal labor market of a country that is not theirs can encounter.
At first, says Hannah Töpler, companies were skeptical about hiring migrants and refugees, but over time they have understood that they bring the same talent as a Mexican person.
“We make migration an engine of growth for refugees and migrants, businesses and society.”Work Incubator for Refugees (Intrare).
This is how they have achieved alliances with more than 20 companies the size of Walmart de México or Uber Eats, and others such as Teledata or Hilos Omega. Also with some startups such as Ben&Frank, Cargamos or Kubo Financiero.
However, Töpler has a plan in hand: to give Intrare a technological twist in such a way that it becomes a social startup that functions as a recruitment agency for migrants and refugees for Mexican companies.
Figures from the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (Comar) offer an idea of the arrival of migrants seeking refugee status in Mexico. In the first four months of this year alone, 24,136 cases of refugee applications were received, involving 40,026 people, almost the same amount as that registered in all of 2020, when 28,001 cases of refugee applications were registered, involving 40,954 people.
Of the cases resolved in the first four months of the year, 6,188 were positive, which are added to the 27,329 in 2021 and the 15,916 in 2020. From 2013 to date, Comar recognizes 76,818 refugees in Mexico, of which the majority are people from Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, Haiti and Cuba. These nationalities coincide with those that Intrare has supported from 2018 to date.
“Many people come from Central America, from Honduras, from El Salvador, fleeing generalized violence, gang violence. We are also noticing that it is beginning to mix with climate change which is having a very strong impact in Central America, where agriculture has suffered a lot. Many people are looking for opportunities in the field, but these opportunities are disappearing with climate change”, explains Hannah Töpler.
He adds that “many people are arriving from Haiti due to a mixture of the economic and political crisis, as well as the impacts of natural disasters. At the same time, there are people arriving from Venezuela, fleeing the political situation.”
Intrare has been found in complete families to single mothers. “That means they have to support their family here, so it’s even harder for them to find a good job.”
Töpler says that at Intrare they work with people with different educational levels, from elementary school to high school in some cases. “There are people who already have work experience and others who have very little. They are people who had to flee their countries, so they generate resilience towards difficult situations, so we see that they can deal very well with learning something new and adapting. That also makes a difference when they start a new job.”
A social startup for refugees
Intrare, which stands for Job Incubator for Refugees, trains these people to build a good resume, prepare for interviews, personal finance tips, and how to manage their budgets. “We mentor them and create a community so that they can also support each other,” says Töpler. “Then we link these people with jobs in allied companies.”
“We look for companies that need talent and have difficulty finding it. We propose that they collaborate with us and we first give them advice on what a refugee is, how to hire one, because many times companies imagine that it is very complex, but in reality, it is very easy to hire a refugee because they have work permits and all the documents necessary”, shares the founder of Intrare.
Today Intrare is already looking to climb. In collaboration with a Mexican university and startup of which they prefer to withhold their names for now, they have worked on the development of an algorithm so that the links of migrants and refugees with allied companies are optimized by technology and filters such as salaries, functions, transfer times, experience. “This way we can place many more refugees and make it even more precise,” says Hannah.
“We believe that it is possible to create more inclusive societies. Our dual integration model – social and economic – provides opportunities for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Similarly, we provide services to companies that enable them to become inclusive employers and catalysts for inclusion.” inside
Although Intrare started as a non-profit organization, it is now looking to take the step towards a social startup. But, Töpler clarifies, that does not mean that they seek to be a business with profits and charge refugees for their services, but that it is more oriented towards the work they carry out being sustainable over time. How? With a commission that they would charge to the allied companies for each successful contract.
In the third quarter of the year, Töpler tells Forbes Mexico, “we are going to announce this platform, what we are going to do with it is pilot a paid service for companies. In other words, we are going to select candidates for company vacancies, as we are already doing, send recommendations to the company, what the company does is say, ‘ok, I want to hire this candidate’, if they hire a candidate, we charge for that successful hiring”.
“We are not establishing it because we care about making it a profitable business, but rather because it can greatly increase financial sustainability and our social impact. The key for us is to enter the market and be very clear with the companies that we are working with that the talent with which we can link them has the same qualities, the same contribution that other recruiters can provide them”, he points out.
For Töpler, it is about companies paying for recruitment services as they do with other agencies, but in this case with the addition that they are helping people with refugee status in Mexico to enter the Mexican labor market, contribute to the country’s productivity and at the same time give them an opportunity to rebuild their lives on Mexican soil. “That is key because we see that at this time there is no one in Mexico that provides a refugee recruitment service to companies, for us it is very important,” she concludes.