Multinational companies including Amazon, Marriott and Hilton pledged Monday to hire more than 13,000 refugees, including Ukrainian women who have fled the war with Russia, over the next three years in Europe.

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Just ahead of World Refugee Day on Tuesday, more than 40 corporations say they will hire, connect to work or train a total of 250,000 refugees, with 13,680 of them getting jobs directly in those companies.
“Every number is a story of an individual family who left everything, seeking safety, seeking protection and wanting to be able to rebuild as quickly as possible,” said Kelly Clements, UN deputy high commissioner for refugees. “So the commitments that businesses are going to make on Monday are absolutely essential.”

She says 110 million people have been displaced worldwide, with an estimated 12 million from Ukraine, nearly half of whom are living in Europe after the continent’s largest movement of refugees since World War II.

The hiring push in Europe was organized by the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a nonprofit founded by Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya that connects businesses and refugees, and is being unveiled at a gathering in Paris. The group’s first summit in the U.S. last year led to commitments to hire 22,725 refugees.

In the new round, Amazon leads the pack, vowing to hire at least 5,000 refugees over the next three years in Europe, followed by Marriott and Hilton with 1,500 each, Starbucks and ISS with 1,000 each, and smaller commitments from brands like Adidas, Starbucks, L’Oreal, PepsiCo and Hyatt.

“This is good for us as a company because the opportunity to add diversity to our workforce will continue to make us a stronger company,” said Ofori Agboka, Amazon vice president overseeing human resources. “With diversity brings innovation, creativity, different insights.” He said the vast majority of jobs will be hourly roles at fulfillment and storage centers and in transport and delivery.

Amazon announced 27,000 job cuts earlier this year, part of a wave of layoffs after tech companies ramped up hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those layoffs primarily affected salaried office jobs, Agboka said.

Amazon Web Services program

Daria Sedihi-Volchenko fled Kyiv last year and now works in Warsaw, Poland, as a senior program manager for an Amazon Web Services program providing free tech training for Ukrainians. She says about 40% of those in the program have no tech background.

“I went through the same way as many of our learners … are going through,” she said. “I had to learn, and I took a commitment on my interview. I said that ‘OK, if we can agree and I can start working for you, I promise to learn Polish and I promise to learn technical skills.’”

Companies are hoping refugees can fill staffing needs after the economy bounced back from the pandemic. In Europe, unemployment is at its lowest since the euro currency was introduced in 1999.

“It’s important to give a refugee just time to learn the language, but the person can start working because if you bring experience with IT systems or finance or project management or any other area, naturally, you understand, it’s not so much about the language. You understand the flow of work,” she said.

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