The refugee crisis: BITC members' response

Since the start of 2015, over 300,000 people have arrived in Europe after desperate journeys across the Mediterranean, the majority fleeing countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. As the refugee crisis in Europe continues to unfold, business is playing an important role in helping to provide support, from making financial donations to providing pro bono skills and expertise, to longer term programmes to support access to employment.

This list shows some of the ways that Business in the Community members are contributing.


BT have set up donation pages, using the company’s MyDonate platform, to enable employees to give to three charities: Save the Children, Oxfam and British Red Cross. Suzy Goodman, BT’s Head of Communications, says: “Many BT people have asked what they can do to help out with the refugee crisis. We are glad to be able to provide our people with the means to help”. 


CBRE, the world’s largest commercial property and investment firm, has pledged more than €500,000 to support the Syrian refugee crisis. Funds will support relief efforts through its global disaster relief NGO partners Plan International and Médecins Sans Frontières. Over the last three years CBRE have already funded over 100,000 vaccinations and 3,000 blankets in addition to medical provision in the refugee camps.

Martin Samworth, CEO - EMEA, CBRE says: “We have committed support from CBRE disaster relief funds to support the urgent humanitarian work in Syria. The crisis has created unimaginable circumstances for innocent children and families caught up in this conflict and we would urge other businesses to show their support where they can.”

CBRE is providing funds to its EMEA-wide charity partner, Plan International, and disaster relief partner, Médecins Sans Frontières. Additional funds from CBRE’s Global Disaster Relief Foundation aretopping up worldwide CBRE employee donations through an ongoing employee appeal.

The grant to Médecins Sans Frontières is supporting their work in Syria, and has already enabled a vaccination programme of more than 15,000 children and funded medical supplies to support the safe delivery of over 650 babies.

Christopher Stokes, General Director at Médicins Sans Frontières, said: “As the bitter conflict in Syria continues, conditions there are worsening for children on the ground. Thanks to the generous support of CBRE, MSF can continue to ensure the safe delivery of babies for pregnant women, provide urgent surgical care to women and children and distribute thousands of hot meals. We would like to thank CBRE for supporting our lifesaving work; our capacity to respond effectively is dramatically increased by such generous donations.”

Plan International is currently supporting thousands of refugees in the region, including in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as Syria itself. Tanya Barron, Chief Executive of Plan International UK, said:

“Thousands of people continue to flee unimaginable horrors in Syria, only to face further challenges as they settle in to neighbouring countries. Due to their age and vulnerability children are at particular risk, with their health, education and well-being severely affected. We would like to thank CBRE for their generous donation, it will support our work with families and children, providing them with essential items and helping them to access basic services, like education, as well as providing psychosocial support and protection.”

In addition, CBRE have managed clothing and material collections by employees in the UK and several other countries in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Deutsche Post DHL

Deutsche Post DHL has joined forces with established corporate responsibility partners to respond to the refugee crisis in Germany. The nationwide effort, which is being coordinated locally, draws on the expertise of the Group’s partner organisations to respond to the immediate needs of refugees. The company’s efforts are part of a long-term commitment to support relief organisations across Germany.

The response includes:

  • One million euros of funding in the first year for programmes designed to support the integration process. These programmes will focus primarily on language acquisition and the provision of vocational support. DPDHL will be collaborating with well-established partners such as Aktion Deutschland Hilft, an alliance of German relief organisations, SOS Children’s Villages, Stiftung Lesen and Teach First Deutschland.

  • The offering of up to 1,000 internships, which can later lead to future traineeships and employment in Germany.

  • Approximately 100 dedicated coordinators in Deutsche Post branch offices across Germany will work closely with partner organisations to manage the refugee aid efforts locally.

  • 10,000 employee volunteers will be invited to provide local-level support to projects, drawing on the long-standing success of Deutsche Post DHL's Corporate Volunteering programme.

In the UK, DHL has obtained guidance from a number of humanitarian organisations and is encouraging employees to fundraise or make cash donations to organisations working to support refugees. DHL UK is also providing advice to employees who wish to donate goods, to ensure these are suitable and can be distributed by appropriate organisations.

To manage the increasing demand to move donated goods overseas, DHL UK have implemented two types of shipping services, to support charities and community organisations providing support to refugees.  

For items over 100kgs, the DHL Global Forwarding Aid and Relief team ( is offering the best possible rates to charity organisations and charitable donors (that may not be registered a charity) collecting boxes to palletise and ship from the UK to migrant locations of need across Europe.

Any shipments organised by DPDHL to support the refugee crisis must be through a charity or non-governmental organisation (NGO), which is related to humanitarian work.

Goldman Sachs

The Goldman Sachs Gives foundation has made a donation of £2million to UNHCR to support refugees arriving in Europe. The partnership will provide immediate support for the refugees who have arrived on the shores of the Mediterranean, including in Italy, Greece, Malta and the Balkans and will also be directed towards the refugees in and around Syria, including in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. £2 million will be directed towards providing supplies for thousands of families including Survivor Packs, emergency food packs, secure accommodation for extremely vulnerable children and temporary medical facilities.

Hilton Worldwide

The plight of refugees fleeing civil war in Syria has been in the spotlight in recent weeks and for many of Hilton Worldwide’s hotels and communities in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) this issue is having a real impact. In both good times and times of crisis, the company’s hotels provide a safe haven for people, and Team Members are passionate about extending their generosity, compassion and service to those in need around the world. The company have therefore facilitated opportunities for Team Members to respond in three distinct ways:

  • In-Kind Donations: Provided Team Members with emergency kit guidelines to support them in contacting community organisations that are working on the issue in their area and how they can effectively donate the most needed items.

  • Monetary Donations: Developed a fundraising FAQ or guidance on how Team Members can fundraise for the cause and donate to Hilton Responds, Hilton Worldwide’s disaster support fund that provides support to organizations active on the ground helping crisis and disaster relief efforts.

  • Volunteer Meaningfully: Shared a community toolkit offering tips and best practices on how Team Members can contact their local council to assess where help would be needed most and what would be the most appropriate way to get involved, from team volunteering through to providing long-term training or employment opportunities for the migrants.

A number of Hilton Worldwide properties are already volunteering meaningfully and making a huge impact. For example:

  • Hilton Munich: The hotel supports their long standing partner’s new integration program for young asylum seekers by allocating disused accommodation to welcome them, alongside offering monthly professional training in areas such as cooking, cleaning and job skills. They have also set up a “Buddy” programme for Team Members to help the young people get to discover and integrate in Munich.

  • Hilton Vienna: House Sidra supports young asylum seekers in Vienna. The hotel provides them with surplus amenities and furniture, voluntary work hours, shadowing experiences and employment contracts.

  • Hilton Milan: Farsi Prossimo is a social cooperative that supports migrant people by helping them find accommodation, training, and employment. For three years, Hilton Milan has been collaborating with Farsi Prossimo by providing work experience, cooking training sessions to the migrants, and quality equipment from their refurbishment and business skills coaching to Farsi Prossimo.


Linklaters contribute legal expertise and cross-border capabilities to support refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people globally.

The crisis in the Mediterranean is a significant focus for the company's humanitarian relief partners Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the British Red CrossLinklater's on going support for the British Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), to which it provides annual donations, is enabling these organisations to respond quickly and capably.

For the past two years Linklaters have also co-sponsored a refugee simulation at Davos. This takes delegates through the experience of life as a refugee in terrifying detail.  Linklaters' existing support for NGOs supporting refugees was reinforced by this project and has led to conversations with the UK Government, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and others.

In addition, Linklaters is providing pro bono legal support to a number of organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers:

  • It work with the European Council for Refugees in Exiles (ECRE) across its Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, London and Paris offices to review and summarise cases and judicial decisions to contribute to the European Database of Asylum Law (EDAL). EDAL is a legal resource accessible to lawyers and NGOs across Europe, who work to protect the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. Linklaters has just commenced a partnership with ECRE and aims to continue to support them.

  • Through its work in the human trafficking sector, Linklaters has assisted many organisations to provide legal advice and support to individuals who are seeking asylum or refugee status having escaped trafficking. This includes Sanctuary for Families (sex trafficking), Oasis Belgium/Stop the Traffik (sex trafficking), Visayan Forum Foundation (trafficking and slave labour in the fishing industry).

  • In its New York office, Linklaters has worked with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) to assist an applicant who had been refused asylum in the U.S.  The applicant was a widow who was suffering from breast cancer, with three children. Linklaters assisted with her Request for Reconsideration to the U.S. Department of State following recommendations for refugee status by the UNHCR.

  • Linklaters pioneered a pro bono relationship with the Justice Centre in Hong Kong. Its lawyers assist the centre with written briefs to the UN refugee agency, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in relation to the refugee status determination process for individual refugees.


All donations from clients and employees to the UBS Optimus Foundation are matched. The Foundation supports the efforts of Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children. 


Unilever will enable employees to donate via two partners of the Foundation, UNICEF and Save the Children, who are running emergency programs for the refugees in the field. Unilever will match donations. Secondly, Unilever teams are fully mobilised to make obsolete products available, providing hygiene and care through the company's brands. Via Unilever's MCOs, trucks are already leaving and via local organisations the company will assure the refugees receive the care and products they need.

University of Warwick

The University of Warwick is offering 10 student scholarships for refugees seeking a place at university to study or research in this academic year (2015-16). A further 10 student scholarships for refugees will be offered for the following academic year (2016-17), and the University will then review the impact of these scholarships.

The scholarships will be a mix of postgraduate and undergraduate studentships, though in the first year the majority are likely to be postgraduate opportunities as recruitment will run beyond the imminent start of the new academic year. Staff and students are being offered the opportunity to donate to the scholarship programme to support refugees.

As the scholarships are fully developed, the University of Warwick will consult with Article 26 (a project of the Helena Kennedy foundation) to explore how they can help to promote these opportunities and assist in identifying applicants for scholarships.

Professor Sir Nigel Thrift, Vice-Chancellor, and Professor Stuart Croft, Provost, say "We strongly believe that we as a university community have an inherent responsibility to try to shape a more accepting society, and we must never neglect that responsibility. We will work unstintingly to support those who need a welcoming hand in this very difficult time."


The UPS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of UPS® (NYSE: UPS) is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide critical relief shipments to thousands of refugees in Greece and along the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia border. Air shipments of 163 metric tons of relief supplies, including 86 tons of high-energy biscuits, 30,000 blankets, 25,000 sleeping mats and 1,000 solar lanterns arrived on Sept. 5. The flights were funded by The UPS Foundation as part of its UPS Humanitarian Relief and Resilience program.

This latest emergency relief shipment is part of The UPS Foundation’s long-standing relationship with the UNHCR, WFP, other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations. UPS serves as UNHCR’s emergency standby partner to transport critical supplies into the hands of refugees around the world.

In addition to the UNHCR relief shipments, The UPS Foundation also is aiding The Salvation Army, which will activate emergency funds from The UPS Foundation to support Syrian refugees arriving in Rome, Italy, with food, housing and legal advice.

“The refugee crisis is heartbreaking and strikes at the very fabric of our global community. We committed early on to support our humanitarian partners in transporting life-saving supplies to those people and communities in crisis,” said Eduardo Martinez, president of The UPS Foundation.

The UPS Foundation has been supporting relief efforts for Syrian-Iraqi refugees for the past three years, including:

  • Transporting personal protective equipment and medical uniforms to Turkey for Syria Relief & Development and providing in-kind and volunteer support for Medshare to get medical supplies to refugees (2014)

  • Partnering with UNICEF for numerous relief initiatives including: packing and transporting via 17 ocean containers 23,400 winter clothing kits for Syrian children in Irbil, Iraq (2014); arranging charter flights to Erbil, Iraq with items including therapeutic foods, tents, mats, water sanitation kits and health kits for more than 40,000 refugees in the Kurdistan region (2013); packing and transporting 180,000 items of clothing into 20,000 winter clothing kits, including hats, scarf, mittens, coats, thermal underwear, socks and boots to Lebanon and Northern Iraq (2013)

  • Becoming a founding member of the UNHCR Innovation Circle and introducing the UPS Relief Link program, to enhance last-mile tracking of relief supplies for refugees to ensure equitable distribution of food and non-food items (2013)

  • Working with UNHCR to bring 28 ocean containers to Gaziantep, Turkey with mobile warehouses, sleeping mats, water cans and blankets (2013)

  • Providing in-kind transportation of 394 metric tons of food, supplies and winter clothing for Syrian refugees in support of UNHCR (2013)

  • Partnering with Shelterbox USA to deliver 11,750 kilos of shelter supplies in Lebanon (2013)

  • Deploying skilled volunteers to southern Turkey as part of the World Food Programme’s Logistics Emergency Team to assess capacities of ports, roads and airports along key supply lines in support of Syrian refugees (2012).

The Prince’s Business Emergency Recovery Group – UK focus

The Prince’s Business Emergency Recovery Group (BERG) is a business-led network in the UK, convened by Business in the Community, focusing on emergency resilience, response and recovery in the UK.

BERG is reviewing where its business-led network may already be active or may be called upon in relation to the current refugee situation in the UK.  In preparation, BERG is liaising with UK and Scottish Government agencies, the British Red Cross and its other key stakeholders to scope the need, if required, for UK Plc help.  

Business in the Community: The Ready for Work programme

Ready for Work, Business in the Community's national programme, supports some of society's most disadvantaged people in enteringemployment, with business involvement every step of the way.  Ready for Work supports people with multiple barriers to work, including refugees and asylum seekers, who are eligible for the programme once their right to work has been approved.

150 businesses in 20 locations support Ready for Work participants through training, work placements and their progress into employment. In return, businesses benefit from cost-effective recruitment opportunities, stronger links with the local community and personal and professional development for employee volunteers. Find out more >> 

If you are a Business in the Community member and would like your response to be featured in this list, please contact your Corporate Advisor.