Billionaire philanthropist pledges $500 million toward refugee crisis

Billionaire philanthropist pledges $500 million toward refugee crisis
3 min read
20 September, 2016
Hungarian-American financier George Soros said host countries have missed opportunities to 'reap the proven benefit' refugees can bring.
George Soros will invest in ideas that will benefit migrants worldwide [Getty]

A billionaire business magnate has pledged $500 million to migrants and refugees.

Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros – who has a net worth of $24.9 billion – wants to invest in enterprises founded by refugees to help tackle issues faced by displaced people.

The Budapest-born financier said host countries have missed opportunities to “reap the proven benefit” refugees can bring.

The pledge comes as world leaders address the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War at a UN summit in New York.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal Soros said: “Our collective failure to develop and implement effective policies to handle the increased flow has contributed greatly to human misery and political instability.”

There are currently 65 million people on the move around the world, fleeing conflicts, persecution or poverty.

Many have made perilous journeys to Europe, while have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, which straining under the burden of hosting thousands of migrants.

We will be focused on ensuring that our investments lead to products and services that truly benefit migrants and host communities

Soros, whose philanthropic organisation the Open Society Foundations supports democracy and human rights in more than 100 countries, says those nations hosting refugees are not embracing the advantages of “greater integration”.

“Governments must play the leading role in addressing this crisis by creating and sustaining adequate physical and social infrastructure for migrants and refugees,” he added.

“But harnessing the power of the private sector is also critical.”

He backed President Barack Obama’s call for US companies to play a bigger role in meeting the challenges posed by migration.

“In response, I have decided to earmark $500 million for investments that specifically address the needs of migrants, refugees and host communities,” he said.

“I will invest in start-ups, established companies, social-impact initiatives and businesses founded by migrants and refugees themselves.

"Although my main concern is to help migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, I will be looking for good investment ideas that will benefit migrants all over the world.”

He singled out the digital technology sector as a “promising” way to provide solutions to the problems faced by displaced people.

Read more: Mobile phones 'as critical as food, shelter' to refugees

“Private businesses are already investing billions of dollars to develop such services for non-migrant communities,” he said.

“Customising and extending these innovations to serve migrants will help improve the quality of life for millions around the world.”

Customising and extending these innovations to serve migrants will help improve the quality of life for millions around the world

Investments made will be owned by Soros’ non-profit organisation, with any profits going to programmes that benefit migrants and refugees.

“They are intended to be successful,” he said, “Because I want to show how private capital can play a constructive role helping migrants.”

“As long time champions of civil society, we will be focused on ensuring that our investments lead to products and services that truly benefit migrants and host communities,” Soros added.