Obama tips hat to Google and Microsoft for work to help refugees

President Barack Obama says money and expertise are needed from the private sector to alleviate the world's worst refugee crisis on record.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

The Obama Administration has called on the private sector to do more to help refugees.

White House

President Barack Obama applauded Google, Microsoft and other big tech companies for their help in resettling people fleeing Syria's civil war and other global crises as he launched an initiative to drum up broader private-sector support for refugees.

On Thursday, the White House unveiled an initiative aimed at getting "measurable and significant commitments" from the private sector to help refugees who have fled war-torn homelands.

Fifteen companies, each of which has taken steps to assist refugees, were named founders of the initiative. The list included high-profile tech names, such as Airbnb, Alphabet's Google unit, HP, IBM, LinkedIn and Microsoft.

An estimated 65 million people in 2015 fled their homelands because of violence, persecution and instability, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. That's the largest number of displaced individuals at any one time since the UNHCR began collecting statistics in 2006, making it the worst refugee crisis on record.

The White House initiative comes ahead of the president's summit on the refugee crisis at the United Nations in September. Obama is hoping to encourage policies for improving education and employment opportunities for refugees.

The president asked US companies to help in three main areas: education for younger refugees, jobs and money.

The White House lauded the more than $33 million in cash contributions made by large tech firms, including Google, HP, Microsoft and IBM. The companies have also donated software, hardware and expertise to nonprofits serving the refugee community.

Airbnb has provided credits to lodging to aid workers, while LinkedIn launched a pilot program in Sweden designed to help resettled refugees find work.

The crisis in Syria has prompted a flood of refugees into Europe. Experts believe the wave of migrants contributed to the UK vote to leave the European Union last week.

The US expects to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees this year out of a total of 85,000 refugees.