Starbucks set to hire 2,500 refugees in Europe

A customer carries her ordered drinks in a Starbucks cafe. Phnom Penh, 25 May. [Kith Serey/EPA]

US coffee chain Starbucks Corp said yesterday (20 June) it will hire 2,500 refugees in Europe as part of a wider worldwide hiring plan, months after the policy prompted a backlash from some customers.

The news came as the EU executive announced plans to make it easier for hiring migrants across the EU. The plan is called EU Skills Profile Tool for Third-Country Nationals.

The world’s largest coffee chain said it would hire the refugees at its European stores starting in eight countries over the next five years and had already started recruitment.

The move is part of the Seattle-based company’s plan, unveiled in January, to add 10,000 refugees in 75 countries to its workforce.

The company faced a backlash soon after, with several people using the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks on social media to urge customers to stay away from its stores.

But there appeared to be no similar reaction on Tuesday with only a handful of people on Twitter voicing their disapproval or support of the Europe hires.

Starbucks will roll out the initiative in Britain, France, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands.

The refugees will represent about 8 percent of more than 30,000 people currently employed by Starbucks in Europe, data provided by the company showed.

A wave of refugee and migrants landing on Europe’s shores in recent years has contributed to a rise of populist nationalist movements.

Some 1.7 million refugees and migrants have arrived in the European Union since 2014.

Refugees have come in large part from war-torn Syria and Iraq as well as Afghanistan and African countries including Eritrea, according to the UN refugee agency.

Starbucks’ commitment was “proving that businesses like ours can use its scale to make a positive impact in people’s lives”, said Martin Brok, president of Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa in a statement.

Earlier this year, Starbucks said that its global hiring plan also included employing at least 1,000 refugees over the next five years in Canada.

Other US companies have taken a pro-refugee stance after the administration of former US President Barack Obama called on the private sector to assist refugees.

They include Accenture, Airbnb, Chobani, Coursera, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, IBM, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and LinkedIn.

And more than 100 companies, including most of high-tech’s biggest names, joined a legal brief opposing a January executive order by current US President Donald Trump to temporarily put a hold on allowing refugees into the United States.

The temporary ban has since been stayed in court.

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