Yuri Milner’s Perspective: Transforming Refugee Support through Technology for Refugees Initiative

Julia and Yuri Milner launched Tech for Refugees in 2022 in response to the war in Ukraine. The non-profit initiative seeks to transform global refugee support through technology. Yuri Milner is a signer and author of the Giving Pledge eureka manifesto, He also founded the Breakthrough Prize and Breakthrough Initiatives.

Here’s an overview of Tech for Refugees and its partner organizations and programs.

Addressing the global refugee crisis

The United Nations Refugee Agency reports that there are currently 100 million displaced people in the world. Of those, 27 million are refugees seeking safety abroad. At least 41% of those refugees are children.

Tech for Refugees aims to address this global emergency and improve the lives of displaced people everywhere by leveraging the power of technology.

In April 2022, Yuri Milner pledged $100 million to programs for war refugees in Ukraine and people in other crisis areas around the world.

As a Giving Pledge philanthropist, Yuri Milner has donated to various humanitarian causes. However, the plight of the Ukrainian people particularly affected him, as his father’s family is from Ukraine.

Launching Tech for Refugees, Julia and Yuri Milner said: “We are devastated by the heartbreaking suffering of the Ukrainian people. We believe that this initiative, in partnership with some of the world’s most creative technology companies and organizations, can provide practical support for people living in unrest outside their homeland.

Technical support for refugee partners and programs

Tech for Refugees currently supports the humanitarian relief operations of these eight partner companies and organizations.

1. Airbnb.org

Airbnb.org provides temporary accommodation for people in times of crisis. The organization operates independently from Airbnb and leverages the company’s technology and services.

Airbnb.org became one of the first partners of Tech For Refugees in April 2022. As part of Tech For Refugees’ inaugural program, Airbnb.org offered free, short-term accommodation to 100,000 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

In November 2022, Airbnb.org reached this initial goal. The organization utilized Airbnb’s global network of accommodations and hosts. More than 33,000 Airbnb hosts from more than 90 countries and territories, including Germany, Canada, Romania and Hungary, have opted to join the program.

Airbnb.org and Tech For Refugees continue to support refugees in Ukraine and around the world by offering them safe, temporary housing.

2. flexport.org

Flexport’s impact arm, Flexport.org optimizes logistics for environmental and social impact. The organization works with trusted non-profits and aid agencies to deliver relief goods to those in need. Flexport.org also helps organizations meet their sustainability goals more easily and cost-effectively.

Flexport.org is another inaugural Tech for Refugees partner, joining the nonprofit in spring 2022 to deliver essential aid to Ukraine. In 6 months, Flexport.org coordinated 409 aid shipments to 6 countries hosting Ukrainian refugees. These shipments included millions of pounds of aid, including hospital beds, ambulances and emergency supplies.

Tech For Refugees and Flexport.org have expanded their partnership several times. The new funding from Tech for Refugees has enabled Flexport.org to:

  • Expand the program supporting Ukrainian refugees.
  • Provide assistance to refugees from Pakistan and the Horn of Africa.
  • Coordinating aid shipments to people in distressed areas around the world, including earthquake-affected communities in Turkey and Syria.

3. Spotify

Audio streaming service Spotify joined Tech for Refugees when the nonprofit announced a $100 million seed donation in April 2022. Spotify offered its premium plan for free to Ukrainian refugees.

Spotify has also launched a multi-year program with UNICEF. The program recognizes the positive impact of music and audio on mental health and leverages this power to support young refugees, displaced people and migrants.

4. welcome.us

Welcome.US is an initiative that unites, inspires, and empowers American citizens to support asylum seekers in the United States. Tech for Refugees has supported the development of the initiative’s new platform, Welcome Connect.

Announced on World Refugee Day 2022, Welcome Connect is a first-of-its-kind sponsorship platform. The user-friendly platform helps Ukrainians seeking asylum in the US connect with US citizens who want to help and become refugee sponsors.

5. International Rescue Committee

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helps people facing conflict and disaster to survive and rebuild their lives. In February 2023, Tech for Refugees announced a three-year financial commitment to support the work of the IRC.

So far, the funding has enabled IRC to expand its Signpost platform to 10 new locations across Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. Signpost is a technology-enabled “helpdesk” that provides assistance and information to refugees and displaced people. The platform won a prestigious award at the 2023 UN SDG Action Awards.

6. Needsmap

NeedsMap is a Turkish data-matching platform that connects people in need with people who want to help. In May 2023, Tech for Refugees announced a new partnership with Needsmap and ride-hailing company Uber.

Through a grant from Tech for Refugees, NeedsMap users in areas affected by the February earthquake in Turkey can purchase Uber ride credits.

7. Uber

As part of the NeedsMap program in Turkey, Uber covered all fees and costs for any rides taken by NeedsMap users. Uber also sent payments directly to local drivers.

In August 2023, Uber extended its partnership with Tech for Refugees to support IRC customers and employees. Under the new program, IRCs can use Uber ride credits to meet the transportation needs of refugees.


UNICEF USA, the United Nations Children’s Fund, becomes Tech for Refugees partner in June 2023. This partnership provides essential educational support to children in Ukraine. Many of the country’s youth have seen the conflict disrupt their education and destroy their schools, colleges and universities.

Tech for Refugees’ grant helps UNICEF USA support Ukrainian authorities and communities to make learning safe and accessible for the country’s children.

Expanding technology to reach refugees

From coordinating resources to providing access to shelter and education, technology plays a vital role in humanitarian relief efforts. There are many ways in which innovative technology-focused companies and organizations can improve the lives of displaced populations around the world.

To increase the diversity and scope of its operations, Tech for Refugees continues to seek new technology partners.

Become a partner with Tech for Refugees.

About Yuri Milner

Yuri Milner is a billionaire, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who primarily invests in science and technology-related ventures. He founded the successful Internet company investment firm DST Global. He has also co-founded several philanthropic initiatives, including the Breakthrough Junior Challenge, Breakthrough Initiatives, and the Breakthrough Prize.

In 2012, Yuri Milner and his wife Julia became members of the Giving Pledge. Many of the world’s wealthiest individuals, such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates, have joined the Giving Pledge to dedicate the majority of their wealth to charitable causes. The Milners Giving Pledge focuses primarily on philanthropy that advances science and celebrates scientists.

To fulfill their Giving Pledge, the Milners—along with Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, Sergey Brin, and Anne Wojcicki—established the Breakthrough Prize. The Breakthrough Prizes are the world’s largest scientific and mathematical awards. Many talented researchers in the life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics receive award prizes worth $3 million each year.

In 2015, Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking announced the first Breakthrough initiative, Breakthrough Listen. This $100 million project has reinvigorated the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). There are now four more defining initiatives: Starshot, View, Message and Discussion.

Julia and Yuri Milner created the Breakthrough Junior Challenge in 2015. The global science video competition for students aged 13-18 receives thousands of submissions each year. Breakthrough Junior Challenge winners receive $250,000 in post-secondary scholarships and other awards for their teachers and schools.

Yuri Milner is the author of Eureka Manifesto: Mission for Our Civilization (2021). A concise, compelling read, eureka manifesto The argument is that we need a mission to unite and inspire humanity while furthering our progress as a species. You can read, download or listen eureka manifesto Free online.