Airbnb to offer accommodation to 20,000 Afghan refugees

US: Airbnb will temporarily house 20,000 Afghan refugees at no charge in response to what CEO Brian Chesky has called “one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time”.

Chesky said: “”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. I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There’s no time to waste. As tens of thousands of Afghan refugees resettle around the world, where they stay will be the first chapter in their new lives. For these 20,000 refugees, my hope is that the Airbnb community will provide them with not only a safe place to rest and start over, but also a warm welcome home.”

The offer starts immediately and the company is working with non-governmental organisations to help with the most pressing needs. It has not specified how much it plans to spend on the initiative or how long refugees will be housed for.

An Airbnb statement said: “We know that Airbnb hosts and guests around the world will be eager to stand up and assist this massive effort – and in the coming days, Airbnb and Airbnb.org plan to share details on how hosts and the broader community can support this initiative.”

Airbnb hosts have long been encouraged to donate stays at their homes for “people in crisis”. The scheme began in response to Hurricane Sandy in 2012, when more than 1,000 people needed emergency accommodation after New York city was hit. Since then, Airbnb says it has helped more than 75,000 people.

The company launched its Open Homes programme in 2017 to allow its host community to offer their homes for free to people hit by disasters or fleeing conflict. It has since offered free stays to people affected by the Mexico City earthquake, Californian wildfires, Australian bushfires and other disasters.

It also led to the company setting up its own independent non-profit, Airbnb.org, to focus on helping people share housing and resources with each other in times of crisis. Last week, it gave emergency funding and support to the International Rescue Committee, HIAS and Church World Service to provide temporary stays for up to 1,000 arriving Afghan refugees.