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Soros refugee investment announcement elicits strong backlash

George Soros (Credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/flickr)

The world is struggling to help the more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes. One might assume that a billionaire’s plan to sink $500 million into helping those people would be met with widespread support. Yet, when George Soros unveiled his plan in the Wall Street Journal last week, many people were not happy.

soros-traffic-spikeThe announcement was the lead story in our news rounds the following morning. Most days, the collection of global news garners a few reads and eventually slides behind Humanosphere’s original content. That was not the case this time around. A well-placed spot on Google News and strong opinions about the decision drove a major spike in readers.

Those new visitors had a few things to say about the deal in the comments section. Most were in strong opposition to Soros and/or refugee resettlement in the U.S. An example:

This country is so backwards .. I hope I don’t wind up working for a Syrian refugee . I don’t have a problem working for a Muslim American , but not a refugee that just got in this country and was given millions of dollars to start his own business , when I see plenty of American citizens that could use that sort of assistance .

It’s a sentiment that reflects the current state of political discourse. U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump built a large amount of his support through two policy ideas meant to keep out refugees and migrants: the construction of a wall along the border with Mexico and a proposed ban on Muslim refugees, migrants and travelers.

Soros and his Open Society Foundation successfully pressed on the U.S. to accept 100,000 refugees each year starting in 2017. The pledge was in response to a “Call to Action” by the Obama administration urging business leaders to do more to help the refugees. Soros endorses the idea that the private sector can alleviate the pressure on governments as they take in more people.

“I will invest in 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.

For people who are concerned that refugees would siphon jobs and public resources, it would seem that the infusion of private money would be welcome news.

But hose who oppose refugee resettlement see the investments reinforcing an already bad idea and say that the potential for terror attacks by refugees would remain.

Comments to the original OpEd by Soros questioned his motives. One example:

The immigrants are essentially Soros’s army to create chaos in western nations. $500mm is chump change in regarding the cost of supporting uneducated and unskilled migrants in their new settings for the foreseeable future.

If George were serious about this, his money would go to create opportunities in their native countries, but then that wouldn’t synch with his real agenda.

Soros has invested billions of dollars into foundations backing the development of civil society and democratic values. Some speculate that his time in forced hiding as a teen in Nazi-occupied Hungary drives his philanthropic work. After the war, his family migrated to England. So he knows what it’s like to be displaced by war and migrate to a new country.

He said he plans to invest in services and businesses that would benefit refugees and migrants. He named digital technology as one example because of its ability to “help people gain access more efficiently to government, legal, financial and health services.” Investors already back business that provide those services, just not for migrants and refugees.

All the profits from the investments will cycle back into the Open Society Foundations, which would allow for more investments and fund the foundation’s ongoing assistance to refugees and migrants.

“Our collective failure to develop and implement effective policies to handle the increased flow has contributed greatly to human misery and political instability – both in countries people are fleeing and in the countries that host them, willingly or not,” Soros wrote. “Migrants are often forced into lives of idle despair, while host countries fail to reap the proven benefit that greater integration could bring.”

Soros hopes that other investors will follow his lead, but makes no claims that he will solve the problem.




About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]