Ahead of World Refugee Day, dozens of big companies pledge to hire and train over 250,000 refugees in Europe

Originally Published: 19 JUN 23 00:07 ET
Updated: 19 JUN 23 08:59 ET


New York (CNN) — Just ahead of World Refugee Day, 41 multinational companies on Monday publicly pledged to provide jobs, training and connections to work opportunities for more than 250,000 refugees in Europe.

They include Accenture, Adecco, Amazon, Cisco, Generali, Hilton, ISS, Marriott International, Microsoft, Randstad, Starbucks and The Body Shop.

The company pledges, which will be carried out over the next three years, are being made at a business summit in Paris organized by the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a global business coalition of more than 300 companies that have committed to help economically integrate people who have fled their home countries to escape war and political persecution.

Helping to combat the trauma

The physical, psychological and financial trauma that results from abruptly leaving life as you knew it behind, not to mention loved ones who remain in danger, runs deep.

But having a job can give refugees a sense of some stability, and aid them both financially and socially.

“Having money and a job can help them get a bit of dignity and a feeling that they are contributing, which can be cathartic,” said Margot Slattery, the global head of diversity and inclusion at workplace facilities management company ISS. “It gives them something in the morning to do and helps them integrate into their [new] community.”

It also allows them to not rely solely on the social safety net benefits that their new countries have provided to survive. And, just as importantly, it helps pay for the mobile phone and internet service they need to stay in touch with their families back home, and to send them money and food parcels, Slattery noted.

Though most of the company pledges made on Monday apply to refugees of all nationalities, there is a special focus on Ukrainian refugees, whose numbers swelled to more than 5 million last year.

“With no end in sight to the Russian invasion of Ukraine — and with the European Union welcoming millions of Ukrainians — it’s imperative that refugees are offered longer-term inclusion and hope through integration into the labor market,” said Margaritis Schinas, Vice President of the European Commission, in prepared remarks for the summit.

What other companies are doing

One of the largest companies to make a pledge this week, Amazon is promising to hire at least 5,000 refugees in Europe over the next three years, the e-commerce giant told CNN Monday.

The issue is personal to Ofori Agboka, Amazon’s vice president of people, experience and technology, whose father moved to the United States from Ghana, West Africa, in search of a better life.

“While he was able to come to the US of his own free will, we don’t all have that choice,” Agboka said in prepared remarks set to be delivered on Monday at the Trent European Business Summit in Paris. “From his experience, I witnessed firsthand what it’s like to rebuild your life in a new country, and how crucial it is to receive the support you need, when you need it.”

The move comes as Amazon seeks to simultaneously diversify its workforce while addressing the millions of people around the world who have been displaced by war, violence and other humanitarian disasters.

“We believe that Amazon is a stronger company because of the diversify of our workforce,” Agboka told CNN. “We see the need and believe it’s the right thing to do.”

The commitment to hire at least 5,000 refugees in Europe by the end of 2026 is on top of Amazon’s promise last fall to hire at least 5,000 refugees in the United States by the end of 2024.

Agboka told CNN that Amazon is “on track to meet or exceed” that promise.

Amazon is also working to provide training for 10,000 Ukrainians around the world, including refugees through an Amazon Web Services program called ITSkills4U. That free program, available to Ukrainians anywhere in the world, including refugees, provides training programs and certifications, language classes, mentorship and access to jobs.

Amazon said refugees in Europe are eligible for all types and levels of jobs, based on their skills and experience. Most refugees get hired for hourly roles, though Amazon said many go into salaried positions.

Among the other companies that are making new pledges this week, many have already been hiring or training refugees in Europe over the past year.

ISS, for instance, has already hired 500 refugees in Europe — a majority of them Ukrainian women — since March of last year. But on Monday, it committed to hiring another 1,000 refugees across its European operations and to provide training, upskilling and development opportunities to its refugee employees across all countries.

Other companies planning to hire people directly include Hilton and Marriott, which each promised to bring on 1,500 people; and Teleperformance, which plans to onboard at least 500 refugees.

Others making hiring commitments include Adidas, Blackstone, BP, Hyatt, Ipsos, L’Oréal Group, Novartis, PepsiCo, Pfizer and The Kraft Heinz Company.

Some companies, meanwhile, have made very specific training commitments. Cisco, for example, will offer programming and cybersecurity training in Ukrainian for 10,000 refugees. They will then be included in Cisco’s Talent Bridge Matching Engine, to connect refugees to jobs across Cisco’s ecosystem.

The pledges made Monday represent the single largest batch of commitments made in the history of the Tent Partnership, which was founded in 2016.

But even helping 250,000 refugees will only cover a mere fraction of those who need assistance. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates the number of refugees worldwide is now approaching 35 million people, with more than 12 million of them in Europe. And those numbers don’t include the millions of forcibly displaced people who have not been granted refugee status.

CNN’s Catherine Shoichet contributed to this report.

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