Employers weren't sure what to make of Abdul Nasir Rahimi when he began his job search in the US: a former US military interpreter in Afghanistan with a law degree and expertise in managing significant infrastructure projects.
He didn't get very far after posting his CV online. Finally, he was able to secure a position as a security manager for the Hilton hotel chain at a job fair.
"I affirmed my lack of overqualification. I am prepared for work. I had to begin someplace "Recalls the 36-year-old.
The corporate world in America is beginning to react as the global refugee crisis reaches its breaking point due to the exodus of millions of people from Afghanistan and Ukraine.
One of the largest public commitments to date, Hilton is one of the more than 40 major corporations, including Amazon, Pfizer, and Pepsico, who promised this week to hire over 23,000 migrants over the following three years.
Their assurances fall short of the influx of newcomers. But according to billionaire US businessman Hamdi Ulukaya, the creator of the Chobani yogurt company, who established a non-profit in 2016 that works with businesses to lower employment barriers for refugees, and who coordinated the promises, the interest from the business community marks a significant shift from just a few years ago.
"It's been a fairly slow start," said Mr. Ulukaya, who said that the "propaganda" against immigrants during the years that Donald Trump served as president had decreased businesses' willingness to take part.
Less than 12,000 refugees were admitted into the US in 2020 and 2021 as a result of Mr. Trump's decision to cut back on refugee admissions and effectively lock its borders during the pandemic.
Currently on course to quadruple, but still well short of current Vice President Joe Biden's target of 125,000.
Over the past few months, emergency programs that do not come with the same level of financial backing have permitted an additional almost 82,000 Afghans and over 100,000 Ukrainians to enter the US.
According to a US State Department official, the refugee program was "decimated by the previous administration" and is still suffering from Covid and employee reductions.
He added that the government had "resumed refugee interviews in considerable numbers." "We are reconstructing it in a smart, sustainable fashion that sets the program on a lasting base for the future and modernizes the program to be responsive to shifting needs and possibilities," he said.
As concern over the suffering of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees grows and the US labor market becomes increasingly tight, businesses are turning to newcomers to fill open positions.
According to Erica Bouris, director of economic empowerment for the International Rescue Committee, jobs were often found by Afghan refugees assisted by their organization in around four months. "Demand for labor is incredibly high and in many ways, it's one of the most significant drivers," she says.
According to Jonas Prising, CEO of the staffing behemoth Manpower Group, which received 13,000 applications from refugees in Europe and has placed 1,200 refugees in jobs there, the majority of the new arrivals are permitted to work, but many businesses in the US are still wary of becoming entangled in complicated visa situations.
The business has also promised to help 3,000 refugees find employment in the US.
"Hiring refugees has a very, very strong business case. The correct thing to do, he adds, is to do it. The difficulties surrounding the work permit and how this is handled by the government are extensive, which makes this situation slightly different from the response in Europe.
"Here in the US, many businesses continue to be cautious. Despite their intentions, they don't truly know how to hire "He claims.
Today, Mr. Ulukaya's Tent Partnership for Refugees works with approximately 260 businesses worldwide, offering guidance on everything from visa requirements to ways to make it easier for recent immigrants to obtain transportation to their new jobs. However, a large portion of their labor was concentrated outside of the US until recently.
Mr. Ulukaya asserts that "companies need to play a part in this," but he is aware that the rekindled interest could wane in the event of a change in the economic or political landscape. His success in hiring refugees in 2016 brought death threats.
This amount of involvement and readiness to help with the problem-solving is, in his words, "extremely delicate." We have a big obligation to make the most of this opportunity because of this.
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