Airbnb pledges to house 20,000 Afghan refugees

Afghanistan: Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has pledged to house 20,000 Afghan refugees around the world at no cost to help them resettle in their new countries, as he called on business leaders to “do the same”.

In response to what he called “one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time”, Chesky confirmed that Airbnb would be funding the cost of the stays through his own donations, the company itself, and donors to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund, which is designed to help people share housing and resources in times of crisis.

In June, Airbnb.org announced the establishment of a $25 million Refugee Fund, a fundraising initiative to expand its support of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide, starting with programmes run by non-profit partner organisations in the United States and Central and South America.

Tweeting earlier today, he wrote: “Starting today, Airbnb will begin housing 20,000 Afghan refugees globally for free. While we will be paying for these stays, we could not do this without the generosity of our hosts.

“To make this happen, we are working closely with Airbnb.org, NGOs, and partners organisations on the ground to support the most pressing needs. If you’re willing to host a refugee family, reach out and I’ll connect you with the right people here to make it happen!

“The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the US and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. We feel a responsibility to step up.

“I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There’s no time to waste,” he added.

Chesky said that the firm had felt a responsibility to step up in the face of the Afghan humanitarian crisis, and promised that its community would provide displaced refugees with a “safe place and rest and start over” and “a warm welcome home”.

The Airbnb.org Refugee Fund is the by-product of previous and current initiatives set up the firm to support “people in crisis”, by encouraging property owners on its platform to “donate” stays at their homes.

It began in 2012 in response to Hurricane Sandy, which left more than 1,000 people requiring emergency accommodation in and around New York City. Since then, Airbnb says that its schemes have helped more than 75,000 people worldwide.

One such scheme was Airbnb’s Open Homes initiative, which launched in 2017 to allow hosts to offer their homes for free to people affected by disasters or those fleeing conflict in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan.

The initiative has been activated to offer emergency accommodation for people left homeless by earthquakes in Mexico City, wildfires in California, bushfires in Australia, flooding in Europe, hurricanes and tornadoes across the United States, and more disasters.

Last week, Airbnb said it had given funding and support to the International Rescue Committee [IRC], Jewish American nonprofit organisation Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society [HIAS] and Church World Service to provide immediate temporary stays for up to 1,000 arriving Afghan refugees.

Airbnb.org added that it had worked with partners to place 165 refugees in safe housing shortly after touching down in the United States over the weekend.

David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee [IRC], said: “As the IRC helps to welcome and resettle Afghans in the US, accessible housing is urgently needed and essential. We are grateful to our partners at Airbnb.org and Airbnb for once again offering their support and infrastructure to meet this moment, providing safe and welcoming places for individuals and families as they arrive in the United States and begin rebuilding their lives.”

Airbnb and Airbnb.org will announce in the coming days how hosts and the broader community will be able to support the initiative. To learn more about Airbnb.org’s work to open homes in times of crisis, follow this link.