US-AFGHANISTAN-CONFLICT-REFUGEES

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As the United States continues to pull its troops out of Afghanistan and after the Taliban decreed it will forbid any Afghans from leaving the country, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced yesterday that his company will provide shelter for 20,000 Afghan refugees around the world pro bono.

“As tens of thousands of Afghan refugees resettle around the world, where they stay will be the first chapter in their new lives,” Chesky issued in a statement. “For these 20,000 refugees, my hope is that the Airbnb community will provide them with not only a safe place to rest and start over, but also a warm welcome home.”

Although the length of the program remains unclear for now, housing costs will be covered by Airbnb and Chesky, and further monies will come from donations made to the Airbnb.org Refugee Fund. The $25 million fund was created two months ago, and Jessica Reese, VP of Institutional Development for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, spoke on the importance of providing safety to those in danger and nowhere to call home.

“Shelter continues to be a top need amongst HIAS clients globally – including refugees, asylum seekers and the forcibly displaced,” she said this past June. “Across HIAS US and global programs, the Airbnb.org partnership has made it possible to provide emergency shelter to thousands of refugees in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Guyana and the US. Airbnb.org gives displaced families a safe place to plan and make informed choices about the future.”

However, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid let it be known that foreign nationals are free to leave Afghanistan; Afghans who try to do the same are discouraged from attempting the same play. “The road, which goes to the airport, is blocked,” he said at a press conference yesterday. “Afghans cannot take that road to go to the airport, but foreign nationals are allowed to take that road to the airport.”

“We are not allowing the evacuation of Afghans anymore,” Mujahid later followed up, “and we are not happy with it either.”

Chesky vowed that Airbnb would “evolve [its] initiative and its support as necessary” for those trying to flee the war-torn nation. “The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. We feel a responsibility to step up,” he said per CNBC. And he later added: “I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There’s no time to waste.”