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Luxury accessories brand Mulberry and department store Harrods are among the latest supporters of the UK Ukraine Business Consortium Network, a UK-based scheme to provide long-term support for refugees, both from the ongoing war in Ukraine and other international crises.
Over 10 million people have been displaced since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, with the majority fleeing to neighboring countries including Poland, Romania, Hungary and Moldova. Those seeking refuge and employment in the UK have faced complex layers of bureaucracy and red tape, which the consortium is seeking to address.
In the immediate aftermath of the outbreak of war, 45 UK businesses, including retailers Marks & Spencer and Asos, formed a consortium and pledged their support to incoming refugees. Some have supported refugees with jobs, others have provided essential supplies such as sim cards for mobile phones, and others have facilitated one-on-one mentoring relationships. Harrods is part of the consortium, but is not yet sponsoring the project with Refuaid.
Mulberry is now set to join members of the consortium scaling up their support for refugee employment charity Refuaid, following a successful pilot scheme involving mail company FDM, recruitment company Page Group, financial services provider PwC and private dental practice Portman Dental Group.
The companies involved will each sponsor a set number of refugees through Refuaid’s education and employment programme. Not all of them will hire the people involved, only those with relevant skills. Refuaid CEO Anna Jones was particularly excited to have Mulberry on board after a fashion designer fleeing Ukraine contacted the charity for support. She says the brand is sponsoring four refugees from Ukraine as well as helping a group of tailors from Afghanistan retrain as handbag artisans and opening up vacancies across its manufacturing operation and head office.
Support from businesses has been overwhelming, helping to plug an urgent gap in UK government support, says coordinator Emma Sinclair, who is also co-founder and CEO of recruitment software Enterprise Alumni, and an advisor to G7 and Unicef. Her father’s family fled to the UK from Ukraine years ago to avoid persecution. “I hope that, through this consortium, we are seeing the beginning of a much needed blueprint for how to help refugees arriving on our shores.”
“Our professional lives and achievements are a huge part of how we define ourselves as individuals, so the ability to continue with our chosen career can’t be underestimated,” a statement from Mulberry CEO Thierry Andretta reads. “Intensive language courses, access to a professional network and advice as well as support and funding to recertify professional qualifications are all necessary steps to the end goal of meaningful employment.”