Airbnb and other US firms step up to help with Afghan refugees

Airbnb said it will work with resettlement agencies to provide temporary housing to 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide.

The US is racing to evacuate foreigners and vulnerable Afghans before month end [File: Francois Lenoir/Reuters]

United States companies, including Airbnb and Walmart, are lending a hand to the people of Afghanistan after the recent collapse of the US-backed government and takeover by the Taliban.

Home-sharing company Airbnb said on Tuesday it would provide temporary housing to 20,000 Afghan refugees worldwide.

The effort will be funded by Airbnb, its chief executive, Brian Chesky, and donations to its charity Airbnb.org, the company said in a blog.

“We are providing this housing through resettlement agencies and partners, who are in direct coordination with refugees and are advising on their needs for length of stay,” a company spokeswoman said.

“While we are only providing temporary [not permanent] housing, we are committed to housing these families for as long as they need.”

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last week as the United States and its allies withdrew troops from the country. The US, along with its allies, is racing to complete the evacuation of all foreigners and vulnerable Afghans before the expiry of an August 31 deadline agreed with the Taliban.

Over the past weekend, Airbnb.org has worked with partners to place 165 refugees in safe housing shortly after they landed in the US, it said.

US military and coalition flights evacuated 21,600 people from Kabul, Afghanistan, in a 24-hour period since early Monday, a White House official said on Tuesday.

In another example of companies pitching in, US wireless carrier Verizon said on Tuesday it plans to waive charges for calls from its consumer and business customers to Afghanistan, starting Wednesday and running through September 6. Its customers, including those that call from landlines, will not face any charges during that period, the Basking Ridge, New Jersey-based based company said in a statement.

Discount retailer Walmart said in a blog post on Tuesday that it plans, through its foundation, to donate $1m to three nonprofits supporting Afghan refugees entering the US, as well as to veterans and their families. Those organizations are the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, No One Left Behind and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

On Sunday, the US enlisted the help of six commercial airlines to help transport people after their evacuation from Afghanistan as Washington seeks to step up the pace of departures of Americans and at-risk Afghans from Kabul.

The Pentagon said on Sunday it called up 18 civilian aircraft from United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and others to carry people from temporary locations after they landed on flights from Afghanistan, leaning on the industry it last called on during the Iraq War in 2003.

Source: Reuters

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