George Soros is investing $500 million to help refugees in ways governments can’t

If you want it done right, do it yourself.
If you want it done right, do it yourself.
Image: Reuters/Pascal Lauener
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Billionaire investor George Soros says it’s time for the private sector to step in where governments have failed to solve the problems facing migrants and refugees. He’s pledging to invest $500 million in innovations specifically to address their needs.

The money will go to existing companies, startups and businesses founded by migrants. And, Soros says, he expects to turn a profit. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal he wrote:

All of the investments we make will be owned by my nonprofit organization. They are intended to be successful—because I want to show how private capital can play a constructive role helping migrants—and any profits will go to fund programs at the Open Society Foundations, including programs that benefit migrants and refugees.

Soros (pictured above) describes a “collective failure” of policies to handle increased migration, that end up thwarting the ambition and drive of migrants and depriving the countries they come to of potential economic development. “Migrants are often forced into lives of idle despair, while host countries fail to reap the proven benefit that greater integration could bring,” he wrote.

The pledge coincides with a summit US president Barack Obama is hosting to push world leaders into doing more to support refugees. Yesterday the UN summit failed to produce a “global compact” for world leaders to share responsibility for the crisis. The issue will now be delayed until 2018, despite the urgency of the situation: At the end of last year, more than 65 million had been forced to flee their homes, according to the UN.

Soros’s investments will focus on helping migrants heading to Europe. Innovations that will receive funds include emerging digital technology, which he says could help refugees access government, legal, financial and health services more easily. Already the business community provides these services for non-migrant groups, he said.

The White House said today that 51 US companies, including MasterCard and Facebook, have also pledged $650 million to support refugees globally by improving access to education, employment, and financial services.