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Starbucks to Hire over 2,000 Refugees in Europe in Five Years | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A demonstrator holds a banner at a rally demanding the welcoming of refugees in Barcelona on February 18, 2017. (AP)

Starbucks announced on Tuesday that it has plans to hire over 2,000 refugees in Europe within five years.

As part of its global program announced in January, 2,500 refugees will be able to work in the coffee chain’s stores across the continent by 2022.

The Seattle-based coffee house chain said Tuesday that the figure will be part of Starbuck’s commitment to hire 10,000 refugees around the world.

Starbucks said it will work with agencies that aid refugees in eight countries to launch the hirings. They are Britain, France, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands.

The Refugee Council, which works for refugee rights in Britain, welcomed the partnership, saying it could “make a positive difference to the lives of refugees.” The council’s head, Maurice Wren, said that “refugees bring an incredible wealth of skills, knowledge and experience which are hugely beneficial to society.”

Refugees are also landing jobs in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

When Dominican migrant Angel Méndez moved to the city two years ago and couldn’t find a job, his future looked bleak. The 19-year-old ended up living in a flat on the outskirts of the city and “doing nothing” for a year, he said. But his fortunes have changed dramatically.

Now he works full-time in the kitchen of El Repartidor, an attractive new restaurant that opened in the Barcelona suburb of L’Hospitalet in April.

Despite its designer appearance and prominent position on one of the district’s main squares, El Repartidor is run almost entirely by disadvantaged young people who are outside the Spanish school system.

The non-profit restaurant is helping unemployed teenagers who don’t have work – either because they just arrived in Spain or quit school – to learn vocational hospitality skills.

Teenagers like Méndez normally move to Spain with another family member who migrated for economic reasons, or to be reunited with them after several years apart, said Borja Castellet, a project manager at the restaurant school.

It is one of several initiatives migrants and refugees can turn to for support in the Catalan capital which is vocal about its desire to help newcomers.

In February, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Barcelona, calling for the Spanish government to take in more refugees.

The city’s leftist mayor Ada Colau has criticized the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy for failing to meet its pledge to house more refugees.

In 2015 she published a register of families in Catalonia, Spain’s wealthiest region, willing to open their homes to refugees, or simply to help in some way.

Barcelona is “a progressive city which is open and warm towards people coming from outside”, Ignasi Calbó, coordinator of the “Refugee City” program at Barcelona City Hall, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Other Spanish cities, including Valencia, Malaga, Pamplona, Zaragoza and La Coruña, have also said they are keen to welcome more refugees.

The government can take up to seven years to process an asylum application, Calbó added.

The hardest part is deciding what to do with those who have had their application turned down after being in Spain for several years, he said.

“They can just become illegal from one day to the next, and then they are rejected from all the services on our program,” he added.

In September 2015, Spain’s conservative-led government pledged to bring in more than 17,000 refugees from camps in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Libya within two years.

Since then, the country has taken in just over 1,300 refugees, its interior ministry said.

Spain has provided “all the means at its disposal” to accommodate asylum seekers, said ministry sources, who did not want to be named.

The government is also working to ensure Spain’s relocation and resettlement commitments – made with other EU states at the height of an influx of people fleeing conflict in the Middle East – can be implemented “within the required time and in the right conditions”, they said.

Last year, international protection was granted to 57 percent of those who applied for asylum in Spain, according to the ministry, up from about 30 percent in 2015.