Ukraine refugee crisis: Raising awareness and taking action
Ceridian’s Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Jason Rahlan leads a discussion with industry experts on what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine. Learn more about the efforts underway to resettle and support refugees abroad, and the steps we can all take to help.
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The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shocked the world and displaced 13 million people from their homes in a matter of months. This has brought the number of people displaced globally to a staggering milestone of over 100 million, the highest number in recorded history.
To commemorate World Refugee Day, Ceridian hosted a panel of experts to share key insights about the situation on the ground in Ukraine, the efforts underway to resettle and support refugees and displaced persons abroad, and the steps we can all take to help.
Below are some insights shared during the discussion by Ken Sofer, Advisor to Office of the President at International Rescue Committee (IRC), Orest Zakydalsky, Senior Policy Advisor at Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and Scarlet Cronin, Senior Director of Global Partnerships at Tent Partnership for Refugees (also Tent).
Explain to us the situation in Ukraine and the impact on those who have been displaced.
Ken: It has been a difficult and brutal time for Ukrainians living in the country. We've seen indiscriminate shelling of Ukrainian cities, attacks on civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and water supplies, and reports of war crimes and gender-based violence following the capture of towns. There are roughly 15 million Ukrainians in humanitarian need with seven million people who have been internally displaced, and another five million who have fled from Ukraine into neighboring countries.
What is the lived experience of Ukrainians who have fled, and how are governments like Canada providing support?
Orest: The lived experience is in some ways like that of refugees all over the world. Women and children make up a larger portion because, under martial law, men between 18-60 are subject to military service and mobilisation. These are people who have every intention of returning when the war is over.
What we've seen in Europe is the large majority are staying with residents of these countries, rather than refugee camps. Typical barriers such as language and finding jobs and local schools become prevalent. The shorter-term problems are starting to be overshadowed by the longer-term ones.
There is government and income support for displaced people entering Canada. Many services are being provided locally through settlement agencies and through the Ukrainian community. We are having continual conversations with the government about supporting the people coming here, including a focus on longer-term issues such as housing.
How can businesses help refugees integrate economically into their new community?
Scarlet: This premise is the foundation for our organisation. We should let business do what business does best. Tent aims to complement the many other amazing organisations in this space that are supporting refugees by helping businesses see refugees as potential employees, clients, consumers, and customers. There are a few areas we encourage companies to look at when it comes to supporting refugees:
- Training and hiring: All companies can recruit refugees into their workforce. We work with businesses across industries, sectors, and geographies to provide entry-level jobs and management opportunities while looking at how companies can create real opportunities for growth. We’re excited to work with Ceridian’s Canadian team to help hire for its product and technology teams. For us, it’s about setting up refugees and employers for success.
- Engaging value chains and suppliers: This is all about companies working with their supplier to hire refugees. For example, Tent just launched UNSTUCK — to encourage brands to include refugees in their supply chain. We have numerous Tent partners who are creating a positive and cohesive message for their consumers around this issue. Bottom line: Refugees should not be seen as victims. They should be seen and empowered to become fully productive members of their societies.
"Refugees should not be seen as victims. They should be seen and empowered to become fully productive members of their societies."
The plight of those from Afghanistan is often overlooked. Can you talk to us about the crisis there?
Ken: The support for Ukrainians should not come at the expense of others in need of humanitarian aid around the world. This isn't an either-or situation. We can and should be doing both. About half of Afghanistan is in dire humanitarian need. The country is facing a triple crisis: political, economic, and environmental. In particular, a major food crisis is affecting 10 million children there.
Scarlet: This lends itself to a broader conversation about supporting refugees from everywhere. In partnership with the IRC and other resettlement agencies, we are working with about 100 businesses from different industries and sectors in the U.S. to hire and train refugees and help them integrate for the longer term. We will be hosting a summit in September in New York and hope to have dozens of companies make impactful commitments to hire, train, and integrate thousands of refugees in the coming years
Beyond giving money, what can we do as individuals?
Orest: We are actively seeking volunteers at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and there's a form on our website to help. Activities range from hosting refugees, to sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine such as medical and food items, to helping at warehouses. Across the country people are mobilizing to support these efforts. Ultimately, what can be done is limited only by the creativity of people who want to do something.
“What can be done is limited only by the creativity of people who want to do something.”
Ken: There are three big ways we can support refugees:
- Use your wallet. Help newly arriving refugees get the basics – items you use every day.
- Use your voice. It's important to advocate for people arriving in a new country, especially in your local community.
- Use your time. Think about how to welcome a neighbor to your community. For example, you could help a child start at a new school or help people navigate the healthcare system. It's about helping people become part of your community.
Scarlet: I would add mentorship to the list. Refugees often don't have social networks, so there are many potential barriers to getting a job. Providing that social capital and guidance is key.
How to engage
To learn more about actions we can all take to help Ukrainian refugees and other displaced peoples, visit: