As new research reveals Latin American refugee crisis likely to intensify, business community steps up to the challenge

  • Survey of 600 Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and Peru shows that much more needs to be done to integrate Venezuelans into host economies 
  • With number of refugees likely to increase in coming months, the Tent Partnership’s Hamdi Ulukaya and the Inter-American Development Bank’s Luis Alberto Moreno call on more businesses to step up and help refugees integrate economically throughout the region
  • 22 companies including Airbnb, Telefonica, Teleperformance, and Accenture answered this call, announcing new commitments to help growing number of refugees displaced across Latin America and the Caribbean build better lives

New York, September 23, 2019 – The Tent Partnership for Refugees and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have teamed up to mobilize businesses operating across Latin America and the Caribbean to take action in the face of the Venezuelan refugee crisis. At the first-ever Latin American Business Summit on Refugees, 22 companies including Airbnb, Telefonica, Teleperformance, and Sodexo have announced new commitments that will lead to over 4,500 new jobs for refugees, as well as support for over 2,000 refugee-owned businesses and improved access to services for more than 110,000 refugees.

The initiative comes as new research by the Tent Partnership for Refugees in partnership with GBAO Strategies – based on interviews with 600 Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and Peru – reveals that Venezuelan refugees face key barriers to economic integration in their Latin American host countries. Specifically, it reveals that while their immediate needs are being met, Venezuelans are poorly integrated into their host economies. Although four in five refugees have found some form of work, their salaries are often meager and their access to key services, namely health care, is limited. The refugees’ skills are also underutilized, with just one in six Venezuelans working in the same field as they did in Venezuela. In addition, only 15 percent of Venezuelans in Colombia have access to banking services – a key barrier to economic integration.

The research also shows that Venezuelans are likely to continue to flee in substantial numbers. About 60 percent reported that they plan to bring some or all of their family members out of Venezuela. In addition, Venezuelans who have already left the country say they are likely to remain displaced for many years to come, with those interviewed saying they will not return home without a political change, even if the economic situation improves.

With more private sector action needed to stem the growing crisis, Tent and the IDB brought together more than 20 major companies which have pledged to hire refugees, support refugee entrepreneurs, and make vital goods and services accessible to refugee customers [a full list of commitments is available below].

Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank said: “We believe the private sector is an essential partner in many development challenges, and migration is no exception. There is an urgent need to integrate migrants into their new host economies. Private companies have an important role to play, both as service providers and employers who can harness the skills migrants bring to benefit local economies.”

Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder of the Tent Partnership for Refugees and CEO of Chobani, said: “I recently traveled to Colombia to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears from the Venezuelans refugees in the country. And what I discovered only reinforced what I’ve found all across the globe: refugee passion and perseverance is just waiting to be unlocked. When given the chance, refugees will make your companies stronger, smarter and faster. But it’s up to us to open the door and provide the opportunity for human dignity.”

Felipe Muñoz, Advisor to the President of Colombia for the Colombian-Venezuelan Border, said: “In addition to humanitarian assistance, the best support we can give migrants is helping them find a job or create a business. Our efforts are focused on this objective, so that migration is no longer seen as a burden, but as an opportunity for our economy, for our companies and for our citizens.” 

Commitments made at the Latin America Business Summit on Refugees include:


  • Airbnb commits to supporting 50 refugee entrepreneurs in Brazil by leveraging their skills to offer cultural activities and workshops to locals and travelers on the Airbnb Experiences platform. In addition, Airbnb commits to helping 1,000 displaced people to gain access to temporary housing in Ecuador through its Open Homes Project, which provides short-term accommodation for free to displaced people.
  • Accenture commits to supporting a skill-development program for 60 Venezuelan refugees in the north of Brazil to help them either find employment opportunities or start their own businesses in partnership with Migraflix, an NGO providing livelihoods support to refugees in Brazil. Of the group that is seeking employment, Accenture will aim to hire refugees who qualify for their open positions, or help them find jobs at other companies in Brazil. In Colombia, Accenture commits to launching a research project with the IDB and Colombian government to assess the challenges facing refugees integrating into the workforce and to identify opportunities for the private and public sectors to address those issues. 
  • Accor commits to hiring 150 refugees in its hotels and operations in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru by 2021. To ensure their successful integration in the company, Accor will provide training to their refugee employees and cultural sensitivity coaching for their managers. In addition, Accor commits to encouraging its suppliers, investors and partners in Latin America to take action to support refugees in the region.
  • Asocolflores, the Colombian Association of Flower Exporters, commits to hiring 100 Venezuelan refugees in 2020 during the high season of flower production in Colombia as a pilot. Based on the pilot’s success, Asocolflores intends to scale up to hiring 1,000 refugees by 2022. Asocolflores will also provide sensitivity training to help its flower businesses support refugee integration in Colombia’s rural provinces. 
  • Bancamia, a Colombian social development bank that is an entity of the BBVA Microfinance Foundation, commits to providing loans, bank accounts and insurance products to 200 Venezuelan entrepreneurs in Colombia by 2020. These financial services, combined with financial education courses, will help support the growth of Venezuelan-owned small businesses in Colombia.  
  • Banesco, a bank in Panama, commits to helping 200 refugees in Panama start their own businesses through their Emprendedores Banesco program, including by providing training on financial literacy, marketing, and customer engagement. 
  • The Bogota Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with other Chambers of Commerce in Colombia, commits to supporting 780 Venezuelan refugees and Colombians returning from Venezuela to help them start their own businesses in Colombia by 2022. The Chambers of Commerce will provide support through training and advisory services in the pre-acceleration stage, and consider the  most successful refugee-owned businesses in this cohort for additional mentorship and business development support to help grow their companies.
  • Flores El Trigal, a Colombian flower company, commits to hiring 100 Venezuelan refugees at its flower farms in Colombia by 2022. Flores El Trigal will provide these employees with floriculture skills training.
  • ManPowerGroup commits to placing refugees in jobs in Mexico by working with its clients, as well as UNHCR, COMAR and Casa Refugiados. ManPower will train refugees to prepare them for the job search process and also provide them with legal assistance  to ensure they can work legally.
  • Mastercard is leveraging its products and solutions to help humanitarian and development organizations better understand the needs of refugees in Latin America. Mastercard and the Inter-American Development Bank commit to piloting an effort that will assess the water and sanitation needs of 1,000 refugees and members of their host community in La Guajira, Colombia. The knowledge collected will help scale the program to other markets in Latin America that are hosting large numbers of refugees.
  • Palliser commits to hiring 100 refugees at its furniture manufacturing plants in Mexico by 2021. To ensure refugee employees are set up for success, Palliser will establish a skills training center for refugees, as well as offer sensitivity training to prepare their staff to work with refugee employees. In addition, Palliser will provide affordable housing and medical care to support refugees’ integration into the workforce. 
  • Telefonica commits to providing up to 10,000 Venezuelan refugees in Colombia access to affordable telecommunications services, including by providing internet hotspots at shelters for Venezuelans and offering subsidized mobile plans.
  • Sierra Nevada, a Colombian hamburger-restaurant chain, commits to hiring 100 Venezuelan refugees as full-time employees by 2022. As part of its commitment to diversity and inclusion, Sierra Nevada will also conduct sensitivity training to prepare its staff to work with refugee employees and ensure their successful integration into the company. 
  • Sodexo commits to hiring 300 refugees by 2020 in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru. To ensure their success at the company, Sodexo will provide them with support such as language training and professional development coaching.
  • Sunshine Bouquet, a Colombian flower company, commits to hiring 360 Venezuelan refugees and Colombians returning from Venezuela as seasonal workers at its flower farms and operations in Colombia by 2020, with the goal of hiring 100 as  full-time employees. The company will also provide these employees with housing and transportation to ensure their successful integration into the company and the local Colombian community.
  • Teleperformance commits to hiring an additional 1,100 Venezuelan refugees at its call centers in Colombia by 2020 and will provide them with training on call-center operations, soft skills, and English proficiency. This commitment scales Teleperformance’s current hiring efforts in Colombia, where it has already hired 900 Venezuelan refugees. 
  • The Alliance for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Corporación Favorita, IDB, UNHCR and UNDP commit to placing 1,920 refugees in full-time jobs in Ecuador by 2022, as well as placing several hundred more refugees in part-time jobs, through the “Sin Fronteras” project. This initiative will also help 660 refugees in Ecuador start their own businesses.  
  • Ualá, an Argentinian financial technology company, commits to providing mobile financial accounts to 100,000 Venezuelan refugees in Latin American markets by 2021. Refugees will be able to open accounts through their smartphones, enabling them to access a range of financial services, such as making online purchases and transferring money, and build up their credit history. 
  • Unilimpio, an Ecuadorian company that manufactures cleaning products, commits to supporting 100 refugee entrepreneurs in Ecuador by 2020, by giving them seed funding to start small businesses selling cleaning products. To help refugees prepare for their sales roles, Unilimpio, in partnership with HIAS, will coach refugees on professional sales techniques and customer service.
  • Wix, a website development company, commits to supporting refugee entrepreneurs in Brazil, and Colombia. To help refugee entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses, Wix will provide tailored workshops on how to effectively create or optimize their websites to reach a larger audience and better market their products and services. 
  • The World Refugee Council commits to launching the Social Infrastructure Investment Fund: Colombia (SIIF I) a $100M blended facility geared towards  housing, health, and education for refugees and internally displaced people. Piloting in Colombia, the initial Fund will be implemented in close collaboration with the Colombian government, with additional funding for Colombia to be raised in future funds. Following the pilot, the aim is also to replicate this approach in other countries hosting large numbers of refugees.
  • 17 Asset Management in partnership with Refugee Investment Network, commits to launching 3IM (the “Initiative for Inclusive Investment in Mexico”), an investment platform and fund that will promote Mexico-focused investment deals. The fund objective will provide attractive financial returns for its investors and positively contribute to Mexican society while ensuring that one-third of the deals benefit refugees, especially through job-creation, and their host communities.

For more insight on the experiences of the Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and Peru, read the full report here



Media Contact
Colin Hart, FleishmanHillard
[email protected] | +1 212 453 2360 

About the Tent Partnership for Refugees
The Tent Partnership for Refugees, founded by Chobani’s Hamdi Ulukaya, is mobilizing the business community to improve the lives and livelihoods of more than 25 million refugees forcibly displaced from their home countries. Tent believes that the business community is uniquely positioned to address the global refugee crisis by mobilizing the networks, resources, innovation, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the business community – and that companies have the greatest impact they leverage their core business operations to hire refugees, integrate them into supply chains, invest in refugees, and deliver services to them. The full list of over 130 Tent members can be found here. Learn more about Tent:

About IDB
The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

About GBAO Strategies
GBAO offers broad expertise in survey research and strategic consulting in corporate communications, branding strategy, international relations, and political campaigns at all levels of government. From candidates for office to socially conscious small businesses and Fortune 500 companies, labor unions and progressive ballot initiative campaigns to world famous cultural institutions, think tanks to advocacy groups and civic organizations, GBAO delves deeply into its clients’ issues and audiences, conducts high-quality research, and develops winning game plans.

The data for this research was collected through face to face interviews with 600 Venezuelan refugees in Colombia and Peru, conducted from July 31 to August 14, 2019.  The survey was developed and administered by GBAO and sponsored by the Tent Foundation. The interviews were conducted by Venezuelan refugees with public opinion experience in Colombia in Bogotá, Medellín, Barranquilla, Cúcuta, and Rio Hacha, and in Peru in Lima, Tacna, and Piura. 

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