Billionaire commits $500 million to help refugees and migrants

It’s more money than some countries are putting toward the cause.

Philanthropist George Soros in 2010. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
Philanthropist George Soros in 2010. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Billionaire George Soros said Tuesday that he would invest $500 million to fund projects aiding migrants and refugees — more money than some entire countries have dedicated toward the people affected by the largest migration crisis since World War II.

The announcement comes at a time when 65.3 million people have been forcibly displaced from their home countries, with at least 21.4 million people registered as refugees with the United Nations refugee agency.

In a Wall Street Journal opinion piece released Tuesday, Soros said that his monetary commitment would help fund “startups, established companies, social-impact initiatives and businesses founded by migrants and refugees themselves.”

“Although my main concern is to help migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, I will be looking for good investment ideas that will benefit migrants all over the world,” Soros wrote. He explained that investments and profits from his investment would fund programs at the Open Society Foundations, his philanthropic organization that in part gives out social justice grants.


The investment comes three months after a White House-led “Call to Action” asking private sector businesses to give opportunities to refugees who are “a valuable, untapped resource” and “can thrive and contribute wherever they reside.”

Soros’ investment in refugees and migrants represents more money than some countries have given to refugee agencies to impede the large flow of migrants and refugees seeking refuge away from insecure and violent places.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — a United Nations agency that helps refugees resettle in host countries as well as support the voluntary repatriation process of refugees back to their home countries — operates almost entirely on voluntary contributions from various governments around the world. A budget report from December 2015 found that the United States donated about $1.35 billion to the UNHCR, followed by the United Kingdom’s donation of $262 million and the European Union’s donation of $191 million.

That means Soros’ donation represents more money toward the UNHCR than the United Kingdom and the European Union have contributed last year combined — and these governments are the ones at the center of the migration storm.


Investing in refugees can make financial sense. Cities resettling refugees in their communities reap serious economic benefits. Many of the three million refugees who have been admitted to the United States since 1975 have been critical to improving the American economy in old steel and coal towns that have since become economic ghost towns. According to a Center for American Progress report from June, refugee populations have a high labor force participation by the time that they’ve been here for a decade. They tend to start businesses, learn English, buy houses, and naturalize as U.S. citizens.

ThinkProgress previously reported that employers in Baltimore, Maryland who hire refugees are “extremely satisfied” with them because they are motivated to work after having been given a second chance at life.