Is There a Corporate Responsibility to Refugees?


The prediction is that over the next few years there will be an estimated 65,000,000 people seeking asylum (source UN News Centre).  Currently The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention is under pressure to be reviewed and amended to deal with such displacement, and the fact that seeking asylum is no longer people moving over one border seeking refuge from their neighbours. People on mass are crossing multiple borders and continents seeking out family and better lives all around the world.

So while governments now discuss the latest question on ‘whose refugee’ (international responsibility), there is real opportunity for the corporate sector to become major influencers on international and government policy, provide positive solutions to these challenges, and also include in the conversation corporate responsibility.

Large companies, including multi-national recruitment firms, are well placed to seize on the opportunity to reap the rewards of such significant numbers of people moving around the world; whether they be seeking a new start, a new job, or the continuation of their career. Regardless of size however, all companies can look to make the most of the opportunity of these 65,000,000 available job seekers. The Australian government with its strict border control policies seem to be doing all it can to minimise asylum to Australia and reducing the ability of Australian companies to take advantage of this opportunity. These current policies though will only hold back the water for so long as the waves will be literally washing away our Pacific Island neighbours. These neighbours will no doubt be looking to Australia for refuge, many of them coming by boat!

There is no short-term solution here, however there are very smart people in the corporate sector that recognise opportunity. Humanitarian values aside, they all understand that there is money to be made from the movement of these people. When there is money on the table there is always pressure on government from the corporate sector to pass legislation to promote growth.

But where does it start? There is a perception of apprehension towards migration in Australia, stirred up by the rhetoric of political interests that work to instill fear and isolation into people. A push for this rhetoric can be silenced with facts, empathy and understanding of the opportunities it can hold. Companies can take a lead and apply some simple steps, such as:

  • Reviewing internal policies and implementing humanitarian friendly policies in the workplace
  • Written procedures to ensure staff are aware of what to do to when employing a refugee
  • Holding conversations with clients on opportunities to expand their business by sourcing new staff from international backgrounds.

The 2016 Scanlon Foundation Report found continuing low level of concern over issues of immigration. Just 34% considered that the immigration intake was ‘too high’, the lowest recorded in the Scanlon Foundation surveys. The surveys also have found a consistent high level of agreement with the proposition that ‘multiculturalism has been good for Australia’. This latest information surely will give confidence to corporations to implement positive steps. The corporate sector can assist in change through positive domestic and international influence and in the process reap financial reward!


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