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Brief Published: 31 Aug 2021

Brands Respond to Afghanistan & the Wider Refugee Crises

Airbnb is one of the brands responding to the Afghan refugee

With the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan deepening daily, a small number of brands are responding with support for refugees – from mobilising their operational networks and communities to straightforward donations. We review early responses and other concepts connected to refugee resettlement, including a virtual library offering a safe haven for exiled social commentators.

Airbnb Community Opens Its Doors: One the first brands to publicly step up to the situation in Afghanistan was home-share giant Airbnb, which has committed to temporarily housing 20,000 Afghan refugees as they seek resettlement across the world. 

To do so, it’s working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the ground and will fund the stays (in properties belonging to hosts in its network) via contributions from Airbnb, the brand’s chief executive Brian Chesky, and donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund. The latter is a dedicated platform (founded in 2012 in response to the devastating impact of Hurricane Sandy in New York) enabling its community of hosts to offer their homes to those in emergency situations, from natural disasters to the pandemic.

In 2017, the company offered free housing to stranded refugees, students and green card holders affected by former President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting refugees.

Tent Partnership Practically Supports Resettlement: Also plugging into the power of a wider community network is the Tent Organisation (launched in 2016) – a group of around 170 businesses including IBM, Ikea and Starbucks created to “mobilise the global business community to integrate refugees”. The network’s broad capabilities range from providing jobs to mentorship. 

Lego Donates: The Lego Foundation (a division of the Danish toy giant dedicated to redefining learning) and Lego Group owners Kirkbi are responding to concerns regarding the breakdown of the education system in Afghanistan. They’ve announced a grant of 100m Danish Kroner ($15.7m) to support vulnerable children in Afghanistan (as well as Haiti) with partners including Unicef, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and Education Cannot Wait.

Minecraft Offers Safe Haven to the Censored: Acknowledging the oppression of free speech endemic to such crises, Reporters Without Borders – an international NGO conceived to safeguard the right to freedom of information – has created The Uncensored Library in video game Minecraft.

Using blockchain storage to prevent the deletion or alteration of original (forbidden) articles, users can interact with the library's contents by collecting, sharing and writing their own books in-game, but cannot change the contents. Launched in March 2020, it contained specific rooms relating to material regarding Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Vietnam, with Belarus and Brazil added this year.