Retail company provides $10 million in funds for refugees through UN agency partnership

Refugees and migrants, mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, wait in a long queue at nightfall, at the Opatovac registration and transit centre, on the border between Croatia and Serbia. Photo: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

25 November 2015 – Tokyo-based Fast Retailing Company Limited, which owns the UNIQLO clothing chain has partnered with the United Nation refugee agency to announce a new agreement to support refugees worldwide, including provision of $10 million in funds and distribution of winter wear for new arrivals in Europe and expanding its internship programme in Japan and abroad.

“Nearly 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes worldwide; the equivalent to almost half the population of Japan. 20 million of these people are refugees,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres in news release.

Mr. Guterres said that in the face of such an unprecedented challenge, robust support from the private sector is crucial for meeting the needs of millions who have lost everything and are seeking a safe place to restore and rebuild their lives.

“I welcome Fast Retailing’s decision to stand behind refugees not just through its generous funding, but also by mobilizing its staff, business partners and customers to join forces for the refugee cause,” said Mr. Guterres.

Echoing that sentiment, Chairman, President and CEO of Fast Retailing, Tadashi Yanai also said that the refugee issue is one of the most difficult challenges the international community is facing today.

“We must collectively tackle the constant threats that have forced so many people, including a large number of children, to flee,” said Mr. Yanai, commenting on today’s announcement.

The company, which has been providing refugees with emergency assistance, programs that promote self-reliance and donations of clothes for nearly 10 years, said that it will “continue to supply refugees with the clothes they need and give them hope for better lives, in keeping with our never-ending desire for a sustainable and peaceful world.”

According to the Office of the High Commissioner (UNHCR), the partnership with Fast Retailing dates back to 2006, which then entered into an expanded partnership in 2011, a first for a company headquartered in Asia.

The news release said that the new support pledged today is part of a global partnership aimed at assisting forcibly displaced people around the world, in recognition of the need for international organizations and private enterprise to collaborate more closely for the refugee cause.

Under the new agreement, Fast retailing will support UNHCR with $10 million over the next three years, starting from 2016, which will help the UN agency to respond to emergencies and other acute humanitarian crises, and provide refugees in Asia with help to become self-reliant.

Further, the donation is also expected to cover costs related to the distribution of donated clothing, and to date, Fast Retailing has collected and distributed through UNHCR more than 10 million items of lightly used clothing to refugees across 37 countries.

Lastly, UNHCR said that an additional 150,000 items of Extra Warm HEATTECH clothing will be provided by the agency to help families seeking asylum in Europe and Afghanistan through the coming winter, and alternatively, Fast Retailing said they would provide internships with future employment possibilities to 100 refugees in Japan.

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