Airbnb to house 20,000 Afghan refugees

What’s happening? Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky has announced the company will start housing 20,000 Afghan refugees through its Airbnb Hosts. The Open Homes initiative has housed 75,000 displaced people since 2012, according to the company, through collaboration with NGOs and organisations to support groundwork. “The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time,” Chesky wrote. (Axios)

The bleak situation – After 20 years of US occupation and conflict, Afghanistan is now in the control of the Taliban. To escape the oppressive and violent social control of a Taliban government, thousands of Afghan residents fled – first to the capital Kabul and now beyond Afghanistan’s borders. While some countries have opened up to these refugees – contributing moral and monetary support, as the EU has done – other nations have created significant obstacles for refugees, whatever their situation.

What’s being done? Initiatives like those promoted by Airbnb are important at facilitating housing and supplies for newly-arrived refugees. In the US, while the government has officially ended the evacuation of Kabul, some informal operation groups are using their experience in intelligence to organise evacuations, translators and safe houses for those stranded there.

On the ground, in Afghanistan itself, residents – particularly women – have gone into hiding, while campaigning foreign governments to evacuate them and give them residency. To monitor Taliban’s advances and attacks, a group of tech workers have developed an app which filters through crowdsourced, verified intelligence and provides users with updates.

Unfortunately, because this kind of proactive attitude is not universally shared by governments globally, the amount of aid individuals – or even multinational corporations – can provide, is limited.

Protectionism is extremely short-sighted – A lot of anti-immigration rhetoric – which in turn limits refuge for displaced people – relies on the premise that “there isn’t enough to go around” and that sharing domestic resources is a threat to a nation’s domestic population.

There are two fundamental flaws with that thinking:

  1. Immigration, particularly in the case of asylum, is a fuel for cultural exchange of ideas and innovation. Like any population, residents fleeing Afghanistan are bringing with them a diverse set of skills and talents – such as the nation’s all-female award-winning robotics team.
  2. Many Western nations are facing population declines at a time where global economic recovery and the clean energy transition is in desperate need of workers and economic activity – both of which can be provided by an influx of immigration.

The US Bureau of Economic Research estimates “after six years in the country, these refugees work at higher rates than natives. … [and] refugees pay $21,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits over their first 20 years in the US.”

The bottom line – The world needs to and do as much as possible to aid its vulnerable citizens, for themselves as much as anyone else.

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