How to be a refugee-friendly company
If you have been watching the news about what is going on in Ukraine, in the Mediterranean, in Afghanistan and in the rest of the world, you may feel anxious and powerless in the face of images of large crowds of distressed refugee people. And may be wondering how you could possibly help.
We have to go beyond depicting the scale of the crisis as dire to the point of being unmanageable. That means focusing less on urgent number updates of people fleeing, and more about getting ready to welcome them. We have the capacity to care for people and we need to believe in it.
With the right opportunities, refugees can rebuild their lives, settle into their new communities and contribute to the local economy. Alongside governments and NGOs, companies have a big role to play in welcoming and supporting refugees. Here are 5 ways your company can support refugees.
#1 Be a refugee-friendly employer
Employment is one of the most important factors for successful and long-term refugee integration. Yet, refugees consistently face barriers to employment: language, gaps on CV, lack of experience, no network, unrecognised qualifications, unfamiliarity with corporate codes, social stigma etc. In addition, misinformed or prejudiced, companies are often hesitant about hiring refugees.
Yet, employing refugees means:
- accelerating their social and professional integration;
- helping restore their dignity and self-confidence;
- access to talent diversity;
- not an act of charity, but good business sense.
It’s a win-win situation. So how can you be a refugee-friendly employer?
Partner with organisation helping refugees find work
Offer internships and apprenticeships
Work experience, placements and training can help ignite refugees’ careers by strengthening their CV and helping them gain new skills and qualifications. It is also a great way to help refugee people ease gradually into new work environments, communities and regain confidence.
Make it clear that you are a refugee-friendly employer on your job offers or website. Knowing that your company understands the complexity of being a refugee might help refugees feel more welcome and at ease. You might also inspire other companies to follow suit! Within your own teams, you can organise awareness-raising workshops to deconstruct preconceived ideas or train supervisors to help them support their refugee recruits.
#2 Help your employees turn their compassion into action
Your employees might be more willing to support refugees than you know. Create opportunities to make it happen. Offer your employees the space, tools and support to turn their compassion into action.
What about enabling corporate volunteering?* Offer translation services. Redesign a refugee organisation’s logo. Hold mock interviews. Help refugees get their prior qualifications and work experience recognised. Provide language lessons. Mentor. Social media campaigns. Network sharing. Accounting support.
Your employees are skilled. And there are many ways their talent and time can make a real difference for newly arrived refugees or for the organisations supporting them. Make it clear that commitment is welcome and valued within your company. You could also brainstorm fundraising ideas together from runs to challenges to pub quizzes.
#3 Take a stand
It is no secret that societal and governmental actions are often failing refugees. Being neutral is not an option. From local to global policy, companies have a tremendous role to play in calling on the international community to step up and in supporting refugee-friendly policies.
Use your voice. Sign petitions. Support advocacy campaigns. Refuse to associate with anti-immigration initiatives. Call for respectful and compassionate societal and governmental actions. Push for changes in laws and policies to make it easier to employ refugees.
Not only will your company stand with human rights, but it will also attract talents and customers aligned with your values who expect, now more than ever, companies to take a stand on important issues.
#4 Donate to refugee projects
To support refugees, your company does not have to start from scratch. Many actors on the ground have already implemented great initiatives to support refugees. From providing language lessons to offering professional training to answering refugees’ basic first needs, organisations on the ground are filling the gaps and curating a culture of welcoming refugees – with dignity at the core of their intervention.
Donations are key for these projects to carry on and reach as many people in need as possible. Companies can be great allies by boosting their resources and efforts. As consumers and employees increasingly demand good corporate citizenship, these donations are more than a tax write-off – they’re smart business.
But how do you choose the right project to give to? There are a lot of initiatives that support refugees. Here are some questions to ask yourself before donating.
- Are refugees' needs at the heart of the project?
- How is the impact of my company's donation measured?
- Can the project be amplified and reach more people in need?
- How the project's funds used?
- How can we monitor the project's progress?
You can also help refugees reach their full potential by investing in refugees’ own business ventures. Offer start-up advice, loans and grants, mentoring and networking opportunities (Singa is a good place to start).
#5 Don't let the spotlight fade away
Outrage burns out fast. The crisis in Ukraine is less and less present in our news feeds. What happened in Afghanistan back in August 2021 is now a vague memory. Boats sinking in the Mediterranean have now become background news.
The burst of initial support from the general public and the private sector seldom turns into long-term commitment. Public interest fades or shifts elsewhere – leaving most initiatives with limited financial sustainability struggling to carry on.
Unlike public interest, the experience of being a refugee does not fade when the spotlight is gone. It rather intensifies. From fleeing your country to reaching safety to settling into a new community, the refugee experience is a long-term process full of challenges. Supporting refugees as a company means commiting to the long haul – even when an issue is no longer buzzing.
The arrival of refugees is not likely to decrease in the next years. More than crisis, call this a moment for action. Your company can help create a stronger welcoming culture.