Afghan refugees may find sanctuary in Airbnb rentals as the private hospitality company opens thousands of properties to house those fleeing their homes.

An estimated 270,000 Afghans have been displaced in the recent surge of violence between the Taliban and their government, just since January according to the UN Refugee Agency. Many of those are currently seeking a way out of the country, as Taliban rule threatens the freedom of all Afghan women and any man not willing to buckle to religious law.

Over the weekend since the fall of the capital Kabul, U.S. military flights have transported just over 16,000 people out of the country, but those flights have a hard deadline of August 31, 2021. Others are walking out through emergency border crossings into Pakistan.

“The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. We feel a responsibility to step up,” said CEO Brian Chesky on Twitter. “I hope this inspires other business leaders to do the same. There’s no time to waste.”

Airbnb, which has a history of making free shelter available in response to crisis, has opened 20,000 properties around the world to Afghan refugees in response to the current crisis. They seek volunteer hosts to offer their properties, using the Airbnb platform to connect hosts and people in need of shelter.

Airbnb’s crisis hosting program, which would eventually be called Open Homes, began in 2012 as a host-driven response to the evacuations around Hurricane Sandy, which decimated the coast around New York City and Boston. In 2016, it offered local housing for families needing to fly into Florida in response to the Pulse nightclub shooting. In 2020, they housed healthcare workers who had to live apart from their families during the early peaks of the pandemic.

The 20,000 refugees who will be housed by Airbnb and Open Homes are just a small sliver of the 3.5 million Afghans currently displaced from their home country by war, but the impact will be significant.

Photo by  john smith 2021 /