The role of private sector in the refugee crisis

Companies like Ikea and Deutsche Post are assisting the government to address the problems of migration and integration. 

We are living in times of great geopolitical instability. There are currently more than 65 million displaced people , 90 per cent from poor-and-middle income countries that are placing huge burdens on hosting countries. The majority of hosting countries are developing countries and 70-80 per cent of displaced persons are living not in camps, but in communities in cities after being processed and adjudicated to be a refugee. 

It is laudable that the UK Government recently announced millions of pounds to support African countries where high numbers of people are being displaced. However, we can not assume that governments will do everything; governments alone will are unable to solve the global refugee crisis which is why the private sector must do more. 

George Soros’s recent announcement of a personal donation of $550m for Refugee Entrepreneurs and the 50,000-plus volunteers helping in the refugee camps in Greece highlight two examples of support. However, substantial support can come from employers in the private sector. PwC were privileged to support UNHCR and OECD in a series of round tables in Europe examining best practice in the private sector in the employment of refugees. The private sector have the resources to help and they desire a humane solution to the crisis.

Having meaningful employment is key to the Integration of refugees in communities . Companies like Ikea offer programmes which that help these refugees with jobs and help integration in the local community. They are also successfully change co workers perspectives on refugees to positively impact the integration of these refugees in local communities. IKEA reports little-to-no push back from existing employees to these refugee employment programmes. In fact they report very positive changes in public perceptions about migration by way of these programmes. Another company that is also running a similar programme is Deutsche Post. 

The private sector can do many things like help with language skills to prepare refugees for the work place and they can do more to categorise skills that are available for employers. Effective Government and Private Sector partnership in this area would really be a significant step forward.

Businesses’ involvement and support in the refugee crisis could also help rebuild trust between communities and business. A recent CBI poll said that only 53 per cent of those polled believed that business made a contribution to society. The need to rebuild trust and put humanity at the heart of business is key to building a cohesive society – and the time to do it is now.  

Julia Onslow-Cole is Partner, Legal Markets Leader & Head of Global Immigration at PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal LLP.