Supplies and donations have been flowing from the private sector to relief agencies serving the waves of immigrants arriving in and moving through Europe, and soon corporations may be called on for more hands-on work

Social media and big tech firms have been reaching out the way they do best, to help the huge numbers of refugees moving through Europe. Google announced it would match the first $5.5m in donations made via The campaign raised a total of $11m that was donated to Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Facebook is supplying internet access to refugee camps operated by the United Nations. For any campaigns helping the crisis, Kickstarter is donating its fees. Airbnb has started to offer travel credits for aid workers with Mercy Corps and the International Rescue Committee serving in countries including Greece, Serbia and Macedonia.

Mike Butcher, editor-at-large at TechCrunch, founded Techfugees in September, a group to bring together tech companies to brainstorm ways to aid the refugee crisis, including finding useful products and services. It had about 530 members at the time of its founding. The group has been holding conferences and brain-storming sessions. At its One Home Enlive World Hack in London in September, Techfugees registered people with specific skills to match them with organisations in need of help.


Among traditional corporations, GSK has donated £150,000 and is holding a fundraising drive for staff that will be match-funded by the organisation. More than £20,000 was raised by the end of October, according to the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Through Norwegian Air Shuttle’s "Help Us Fill a Plane" initiative, Norwegian passengers donated more than $130,000 to Unicef. All donations are being used to pay for an aircraft full of emergency aid and school supplies for Syrian children living in Za’atari, the world’s second-largest refugee camp, says the Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

At the annual Summit on the Global Agenda, held 25-27 October in Abu Dhabi, which brings together experts from the World Economic Forum’s Network of Global Agenda Councils, several speakers discussed during a briefing on migration how businesses could expand their role in addressing the refugee crisis, and start to view the influx of people as an opportunity.

Several companies currently are developing a cheap, efficient payment system so people can spend money wherever they are, and not be dependent on receiving goods, says Espen Barth Eide, managing director at the World Economic Forum in Geneva and an Under-Secretary-General of the United. “I think we need to recognise the opportunities that come out of technology innovation; [such as] communication and use of big data.”

Refugees could fill labour gaps

The private sector has a genuine role to play in the crisis, which includes trying to match supply with demand and helping refugees integrate into their new societies, says Khalid Koser, executive director of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund. “If effectively managed, this can be an economic opportunity,” says Koser. “A million refugees arrived, and they are not going home. They can fill some labour gaps and we can generate a talent pool if we can manage it correctly.”

Barth Eide adds: “I believe there are experiences on the business side on how to deal with leadership, make decisions, logistics and how to invest in fragile situations that is of high relevance to the humanitarian community.”

There are skills the humanitarian community can offer the private sector, says Barth Eide, adding: “We need to try to provide space where these different worlds can meet over a problem that they all understand may be the biggest problem of our time,” he noted. 

immigration  refugees  fundraising 

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