Here are Migreat’s picks of interesting refugee integration initiatives in Europe.
- Couch-surfing for refugees in Germany
Fluechtlinge Willkommen or Refugees Welcome
This online platform organises the matchmaking between legal refugees and people in Germany and Austria wanting to offer a room in their flat or house.
This is a platform we love at Migreat because it benefits both parties. Refugees are able to live in adequate accommodations and learn the local language faster, which helps them more easily adjust to their new environment. In addition, the host learns about a different culture and helps a person in a difficult situation, not to mention the fact that the host plays a critical role in helping the refugee contribute to his or her new community.
Currently an overwhelming majority of refugees live in overcrowded housing without adequate access to jobs and language learning resources. Therefore, this couchsurfing initiative offers refugees meaningful opportunities to improve their lives.
Anyone in Germany and Austria can register their flat. The more details about your living situation (such as the number of flatmates, the languages you speak, your city and surroundings), the better for them to match you with the right refugee. If you want to take part in this initiative you may sign up here.
- A job-matching mobile platform for refugees in Germany
This is perhaps the most ambitious refugee integration project at the moment. The web app Workee aims to match employers’ needs and refugees’ skills. The challenge is significant: refugees for the most part speak English or French in addition to their native language but rarely speak German. It remains to be seen whether an initiative that provides non-fluent foreigners with jobs can avoid controversy.
That said, Germany’s job market is more flexible and is not suffering from high unemployment rates like the rest of Europe. The common complaint that low-skilled migrants and refugees take the jobs of natives might resonate less in this environment.
The act of obtaining work rights and refugee status might still be a hurdle for these refugees, in addition to the act of finding a job – and we hope Workee can support employers to get beyond these bureaucratic challenges. Currently, after three weeks live, the website offers over 430 jobs. In Berlin more than 60 employers have been using the platform -a good start for a promising initiative.
- A coding school for refugees
Refugees on rails
A school for refugee sounds very promising given the need for software developers in Europe and the booming of the tech industry all around the world. Anne Kjær riechert, founder of berlin peace innovation lab and Farhad Dilmaghani, former state secretary for labour and integration in Berlin developed the idea to change perceptions of refugees from a problem to deal with to an opportunity for Europe to enrich its culture and empower its economy. Their school project has just started this September, and it is likely that it will get a lot of applicants – Germany is expected to received 800,000 applications of asylum seekers this year. All that is required, is from Europeans to provide as little help as bringing an old unused laptop for those refugees to start learning. Migreat will keep an eye on the most promising one to recruit for developing our own code
And one last initiative – out of our top 3 but still interesting to mention as it will stimulate some conversation about what is fair to do and what Europe is doing to help people escape persecutions and war at home.
- A platform to give lifts to undocumented migrants
This initiative is very controversial to say the least. It was sparked by German activists based on the historical example of West Germans who used to smuggle people out of communist East Germany during the Cold War. It is a website that basically encourages Europeans to help undocumented migrants cross borders of Europe to the destination of their choice.
The video shows two Germans giving a lift to an undocumented migrant into Austria at a remote border crossing high in the Alps. Helping undocumented migrants cross the border is a criminal offence in most European countries.
The Peng Collective, the group of activists and artists behind the initiative, claim it is a justified act of civil disobedience. “Can it be just to restrict people’s most basic freedoms on the basis of their nationality? Who actually decides who deserves a better life and who doesn’t?” The website gives practical advice on where to find migrants, how to avoid attracting police attention, and legal tips on escaping prosecution for trafficking.
“In most cases, even if people doing so are caught, it is likely they will escape punishment, or at most get a fine,” the website says. It warns drivers not to accept any money, in order to escape prosecution for trafficking.
The collective has started to collect donations for a legal aid fund to help pay the costs of anyone prosecuted for helping people cross borders.