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June 20 is World Refugee Day, a day established by the United Nations to promote awareness of the estimated 27.1 million refugees displaced by violence and conflict across the globe. 

To mark the day, Pope Francis urged continued prayer and action, and multinational companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, pledged to collectively hire more than 250,000 refugees in Europe.

In a tweet Tuesday, Francis said he was “thinking of Christ present in so many desperate people fleeing conflicts and climate change.”

“The problem of hospitality needs to be confronted together,” the pope added. “Without excuses and without delay, because the effects will be felt, sooner or later, by all of us.”

Among the companies taking action in support of refugees, 41 companies pledged at the Tent European Business Summit in Paris to collectively hire 250,000 refugees over the next three years, according to a June 19 press release by the summit.

Amazon has committed to hiring 5,000 refugees, with a special emphasis on hiring Ukrainian women, according to the release.

“With no end in sight to the Russian invasion of Ukraine — and with the European Union welcoming millions of Ukrainians — it’s imperative that refugees are offered longer-term inclusion and hope through integration into the labor market,” said Margaritis Schinas, vice president of the European Commission, who spoke at the summit.

Schinas added that “this unprecedented show of support from businesses across the continent will be critical to enabling tens of thousands of Ukrainians to provide for themselves and their loved ones back in Ukraine.”

According to CNN, Amazon’s announcement to hire 5,000 refugees in Europe comes after an earlier announcement to hire another 5,000 refugees in the U.S. by the end of 2024.

Ofori Agboka, a spokesperson for Amazon, told CNN that the company is on track to meet or even exceed its U.S. hiring goal.

Meanwhile, Caritas Europa, a Catholic relief organization, marked the day by issuing a press release lamenting the recent deadly refugee shipwreck off the coast of Greece and called for European governments to preserve refugee access and the right to asylum.

Last Wednesday an overcrowded ship carrying refugees attempting to cross into mainland Europe refused Greek assistance and ended up capsizing, killing at least 81 with hundreds still missing, according to the Guardian.

Concluding Sunday’s Angelus, Francis noted Tuesday as World Refugee Day and urged prayer for victims of the shipwreck.

“I reiterate my prayer for those who have lost their lives, and I implore that everything possible always be done to prevent similar tragedies,” Francis said.

By Peter Pinedo

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