Private-sector initiatives hope to plug gaps left by governments. 

Author: Gilly Wright

Hamdi Ulukaya, founder, chairman and CEO of US-based Greek yogurt manufacturer Chobani, is vocal about the benefits of employing refugees (he employs more than 300 refugees in his factories). He recently established the Tent Foundation, which is focused on engaging the private sector to help refugees.

Tent joins a growing list of efforts by the private sector to assist refugees when governments, hamstrung by rising populism, fail to act.

The involvement of the private sector signals a shift to a more long-term and sustainable approach whereby refugees are seen as potential assets rather than a burden.

In Germany an initiative called “Wir zusammen” (We-together) involving more than 100 German companies, including Bayer, ThyssenKrupp, SAP and Deutsche Post, have joined together to promote integrating refugees and hiring them as paid interns.

“Employing refugees is not a solution,” states Heinrich Hiesinger, CEO of ThyssenKrupp, “but it is an extremely important contribution to successful integration and part of our corporate responsibility. Training is key [for the refugees] as the commitment needs to be worthwhile for both sides in the long term.”

Football (soccer) clubs are also lending a helping hand to refugees. German club Bayern Munich created a training camp that offers food, German language classes and football equipment. English football club Queen’s Park Rangers recently announced it had a fleet of coaches on standby to bring stranded child refugees from Calais to the UK.

Elsewhere, the CEO of Canadian appliance company Danby has pledged $1.5 million to resettle 50 families. Google says it will commit funding to primary school education for child refugees in Lebanon. Uber says it will hire refugees as drivers. Swiss bank Credit Suisse has offered financial support and expertise to aid Web-based searches for missing families via the International Committee of the Red Cross’s Restoring Family Links website.

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