The network “For Refugees”, which gathers representatives of the private sector with the aim of providing support for the integration of refugees and improving their living conditions in Serbia, was presented today at the conference “The role of the private sector in the refugee integration “.
The initiative was launched by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Serbia and IKEA Serbia, and membership in the network was signed by eight companies and business associations, among which are some of the largest employers in Serbia and key actors in the retail, tourism-catering and other industries, as well as sectors that provide capacity building and business consulting services.
Members of the network have the opportunity to support refugees in one or more ways: employment and internships, training, product and expert time donations, advocacy, as well as supporting projects that help forcibly displaced people.
“People who were forced to flee their countries and are starting their lives from scratch in Serbia deserve the support of the entire society. The private sector can make an important contribution to building a better life for refugees, but refugees can also support the private sector – with their skills, talents, diverse knowledge and experiences,” said Soufiane Adjali, UNHCR Representative to Serbia, adding:
“We are convinced that participation in the network we are launching can help not only refugees, but also member companies – to further improve operations, dedication to local communities, diversity and inclusion, as well as the achievement of sustainable development goals. We are immensely grateful to the partners from IKEA Serbia, as well as to the representatives of the private sector who became the first members of the network. We invite all socially responsible business actors to join our initiative and be there for refugees, one of the most vulnerable groups in society“.
To the greatest extent, refugees who received protection in Serbia come from Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, as well as from Cuba. Both refugees and asylum seekers in our country have, among others, rights to education and employment.
“Employing refugees is necessary for long-term and successful integration. They want to work and build a new life for themselves and their families, and companies can play a significant role in enabling refugees to fully contribute to the community and local economy. The current narrative around refugees is often based on fear of the unknown, which is why, with the help of our partners from UNHCR, we want to change this perception. By launching the initiative “Acquiring the Skills for Employment” three years ago, we organized a series of activities aimed at the inclusion of refugees in the labor market and the opportunity for them to acquire skills and valuable work and life experience. Until now, through the project, we have organized a paid three-month internship for 28 people, out of whom we have employed 16 “, said Nikola Simonović, manager of this project at the IKEA company.
According to UNHCR data, in Serbia, the most urgent needs of refugees and asylum seekers are dignified employment (38 percent), medical services (25 percent), as well as more adequate or affordable housing (22 percent).
Clothing is the most urgent need for three percent of them, the same as food, banking services, equipment for starting a business, and a passport. More than a third of respondents stated that their quality of life had improved over the past year, while slightly more than half stated that it remained the same.
All companies interested in joining the “For Refugees” initiative can find out more information about the network and how to join on the official website of UNHCR in Serbia, www.unhcr.rs.
The first members of the 'For Refugees' network of companies
Panel discussion within the conference 'The role of the private sector in the integration of refugees'
Conference "The role of the private sector in the integration of refugees"
Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their countries due to conflict or persecution. According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is a person who “due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, membership of a certain social group or political opinions, is outside the country of origin and is unable or, due to such fear, is unwilling to be under the protection of that country”. For the first time in history, the number of people forced to flee last year exceeded 100 million on a global level.