The Role of the Private Sector in the Global Refugee Crisis

PwC's Julia Onslow-Cole believes business involvement could help build trust

We are living in times of great geopolitical instability. There are currently more than 65 million displaced people, 90% from poor and middle income countries placing huge burdens on hosting countries. The majority of hosting countries are developing countries and 70-80% of displaced persons are living not in camps but in communities in cities.

We must support hosting countries and countries from where people are leaving. 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 cannot assume that governments will do everything; governments alone will not be able to solve the global refugee crisis - 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 is well placed to assist- they 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. In addition employers who are spear heading best practice including companies like IKEA report little to no push back from existing employees to refugee employment programmes. In fact they report very positive changes in public perceptions about migration.

The experience of those employers who are actively supporting refugee integration programmes highlight the role government can play in assisting these schemes. For example they can 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% 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.

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