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Refugee Airbnb

Airbnb is going to help its hosts house aid workers in refugee crisis


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

October 4, 2015 | 3 min read

Airbnb is going to make it easier for its hosts to house the aid workers on the ground in the refugee crisis.

The premise of the website is to allow travellers to rent a room or apartment by the night from a host, who indicates price and availability through an online calendar. With each booking there is generally a cleaning fee and an Airbnb service fee.

However, over the past three years Airbnb has, in emergencies, worked with local government to connect people displaced by disasters with people willing to open up their homes for free.

For example, following Hurricane Sandy in 2012 Airbnb struck up an agreement with the local government which saw 1,400 of its New York members offer accommodation. Since then, it has partnered with cities in the US on a ‘Disaster Relief’ project that helps to “pre-identify and activate Airbnb hosts who will commit to opening their doors to displaced persons and disaster service workers when an emergency occurs.”

However, it has said that after extensive consultations with UNHCR and other disaster response partners, its platform is simply not designed to "adequately meets the needs of refugees thousands of miles from home who need long-term housing and professional support services and are legally restricted from various activities."

The most recent figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicated that at least 350,000 migrants crossed the EU's borders between January and August 2015. Many of those making the journey to EU shores were fleeing civil war and terror attacks from countries such as Libya, Sudan, Nigeria, Iraq, and Somalia.

Instead it will provide travel credit to relief workers at Mercy Corps and International Rescue Committee (IRC) who are working in Greece, Serbia and Macedonia.

Our NGO partners have told us that this is amongst the most helpful and immediate things we can do," it said. It is asking people to donate and it will match contributions with additional travel coupons.

Recently, a German group set up a scheme that was dubbed an ‘Airbnb for refugees’ called Refugees Welcome to partner people with spare rooms with those in need of accommodation. Thousands of Germans signed up to the website and many more people from other EU countries asked for the website to be expanded.

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