Billionaire George Soros puts up $500m to help migrants and refugees

Believes the emerging digital technology sector, driven by private enterprise, can bring about real change...

Billionaire currency investor and philanthropist George Soros has pledged to pump $500 million (€448m) into initiatives aimed at alleviating the current global migrant and refugee crisis.

Soros' financial commitment answers the "Call to Action" issued by the Obama administration to businesses to come up with ways to tackle the problem back in June.

In an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal yesterday, the 86-year-old businessman said that he would invest in startups, established companies, social impact initiatives and businesses started by migrants and refugees themselves.

He said:

"These investments are intended to be successful. But our primary focus is to create products and services that truly benefit migrants and host communities."

He is planning to work closely with organisations such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Rescue Committee to guide investments.

All of these will be owned by Soros' nonprofit organisation and will be sought in a variety of sectors, including emerging digital technology.

This area, Soros reckoned, "seems especially promising" as a way to provide solutions to the particular problems that dislocated people often face.

"Advances in this sector can help people gain access more efficiently to government, legal, financial and health services," he continued.

"Private businesses are already investing billions of dollars to develop such services for non-migrant communities."

The founder of the Open Society Foundations said that its goal was "to harness, for public good, the innovations that only the private sector can provide."

The US government announced that 51 companies from across the country had made commitments to aid refugees both in the US and around the world, following Obama's Call to Action in June.

They pledged to invest, donate or raise more than $650m in total.

This would, according to a White House statement, provide support for more than 6.3 million refugees across over 20 countries, educational opportunities for more than 80,000 refugees, and employment opportunities for more than 220,000 refugees.

Speaking at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants yesterday, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said that Ireland recognises that more needs to be done.

"The international community has a collective responsibility to look at all of the options available to pursue a more long-term and sustainable strategy on this issue," Fitzgerald said.

"Dialogue and cooperation with countries of origin and transit must be strengthened and operationalised.

"Fundamentally, of course, the true solution to refugee movements is to end the instability, conflict and oppression which force people to leave their homelands."