George Soros offers $500 million for refugee crisis. Will it help?

Billionaire investor George Soros says he will work with the United Nations to invest $500 million to aid the international refugee crisis.

Luke MacGregor/Reuters/File
Business magnate George Soros arrives to speak at the Open Russia Club in London, Britain on June 20, 2016. Soros said this week that he will invest $500 million to help refugees.

Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros responded today to US President Barack Obama’s call for private sector investment to end the refugee crisis, offering a pledge to spend $500 million in aid of refugees.

Mr. Soros announced that while he has long invested in aiding migrants worldwide, he now plans to collaborate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Rescue Committee to find the best possible way to help the “tens of millions” of refugees seeking aid.

“Our collective failure to develop and implement effective policies to handle the increased flow has contributed greatly to human misery and political instability – both in countries people are fleeing and in the countries that host them, willingly or not,” wrote Soros for The Wall Street Journal.

Although Soros’s investment is not targeted solely at addressing the Syrian refugee crisis, his announcement comes just one day after the end of yet another ceasefire in Syria. Violence in Syria has created one of the largest exoduses in human history, with 4.8 million refugees displaced outside of Syria.

This week, United Nations leaders will meet in New York City for a special summit to discuss the worsening refugee crisis. There, President Obama is expected to announce US aid initiatives, including plans to take in as many as 110,000 refugees next year, about a 30 percent increase over this year.

Still, many say that there is much more to be done.

“We need to give them basic succor,” said Refugees International president Michel Gabaudan. “And the money has not matched the rise in need.”

For this reason, Obama launched his “Call to Action” initiative in June, calling for private sector companies to take a stand and aid in the refugee crisis. Some of the companies that responded to Obama’s plea include Chobani, Microsoft, and Mastercard.

Soros’s $500 million investment is therefore a huge piece in the puzzle of refugee aid. In his announcement in The Wall Street Journal, Soros writes that the money will be invested in startups, established companies, and businesses founded by refugees themselves.

“We will seek investments in a variety of sectors, among them emerging digital technology, which seems especially promising as a way to provide solutions to the particular problems that dislocated people often face,” Soros writes. “Advances in this sector can help people gain access more efficiently to government, legal, financial and health services.”

By connecting refugees with necessary services like doctors and legal aid, similarly to how apps like Uber connect non-refugees with everyday services, Soros hopes to help refugees navigate a confusing and complicated environment.

Now a billionaire, Soros was a young Jewish teenager when Germany occupied Hungary, the country where he was born. He managed to avoid capture by going into hiding for the remainder of the war, an experience that some have speculated shaped his later political and economic views.

Through his Open Society Foundations, Soros has pursued advances in justice, education, health, and democracy for decades, particularly in Eastern Europe.

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