The horrific terrorist attacks in Paris last week left many around the world stunned, saddened and, of course, angry. More news this week, confirmation that the Russian passenger plane that crashed over Egypt's Sinai, killing all 224 passengers and crew, was also an act of terrorism just stoked the already sensitive nerves of the global community.
The media has been criticized for failing to give the other deadly terrorist attack in Beirut just the night before, one that killed 45 and injured 239 others, the same amount of attention. But if nothing else, the Paris attacks and subsequent media attention has finally shed a much needed light on the massive Syrian refugee problem, one in which has seen a staggering four million registered refugees flee the Syrian civil war and set off the largest migration of people in Europe since World War II.
Many U.S. governors have set forth executive orders refusing any Syrian refugees, even children under 5 years old. And whether you agree with that stand or not, the fact is that the vast majority of the four million refugees are victims themselves, simply trying to escape the same intolerance, fear and violence -- and they need help.
Given the sensitive nature of bringing refugees to the U.S., how can businesses here help?
Right now, the most effective way is to support humanitarian aid organizations as they try to deal with the mass migration of families across Europe. This is especially true in light of the fact that the United Nations is in serious threat of failing due to the shear scale of the crisis. According to CNN and PRI, individuals and businesses can contribute by financially supporting one or more of the following organizations whose aim is to assist with the struggle of refugees:
- Concern Worldwide
- Doctors without Borders
- Hand in Hand for Syria
- International Federation of the Red Cross Europe
- International Medical Corps
- International Rescue Committee
- Karam Foundation
- Medical Teams International (MTI)
- Mercy Corps
- Migrant Offshore Aid Station
- Refugees Welcome
- Samaritan's Purse
- Save the Children
- Salvation Army
- Small Projects Istanbul
- The Worldwide Tribe in Calais
- World Vision
Fortunately, the generous outpouring of support has been immense, with the United Nations Refugee Agency ( UNHCR) indicating that in just six days, it has received $17 million in donations from companies and individuals. Granted, many entrepreneurs do not have the resources to make significant financial contributions, such as Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian billionaire who has offered to purchase a Greek Island and turn it over to refugees as a temporary sanctuary.
Instead, businesses can contribute in a number of creative ways. According to CNN Money, here are a few ways larger businesses are making an impact and leading the way in non-traditional contributions.
- Petter Stordalen. The Norwegian hotelier is providing 5,000 overnight stays to refugees in any of the company’s Norway chain hotels for free.
- Uber. The billion dollar ride-share company is providing free driver pick-ups of clothes and toy donations for the Save the Children charity in 20 countries around Europe.
- KPMG. The German consulting firm is allowing its employees to receive paid time off while volunteering for humanitarian assistance.
- Siemens. The German multinational conglomerate headquartered in Berlin and Munich began providing paid internship program for refugee trainees.
- Deutsche Telekom. The telecom company is also providing refugees with internships, although the requirements for acceptance are very high.
- Continental. The global airline company is extending its existing training programs to refugees, with the aim of helping them earn high school diplomas while participating in paid internships.
- Daimler. The German car manufacturer is providing refugee training in machining and tooling.
- Trumpf. The German based provider of machine tools is working with the German town of Ditzingen to create German language courses exclusively for refugees.
Of course, we need to remember and mourn the lives lost in Paris last Friday evening and the heroes, like Adel Termos, a Lebanese father of two who selflessly gave his life tackling one of the two suicide bombers in Beirut on Thursday, saving scores of other people, including his daughter. But let us not forget the millions of nameless faces, families torn apart and children orphaned, who need our assistance more than ever.
Bringing refugees to the U.S. will be a long and arduous process that may never come to fruition -- but that doesn’t mean businesses can’t step up in other ways.