According to figures from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 51 million people are currently seeking asylum, have refugee status or are internally displaced. As a result of natural and humanitarian disasters, this number is growing. Over the next week, we pose the question ‘how does refugee aid look in the digital age’ and, via our RESET Special ‘Refugee Aid 2.0’, we will introduce projects that use digital tools to support and assist refugees. Today: using the web and crowdfunding to put a roof over people’s heads.
Integration is not always so easy for refugees. An open, welcome culture must be established by politicians and throughout society. Flüchtlinge Willkommen (refugees welcome) and Über den Tellerand kochen (loosely translated to: cook over the plate’s edge) are two projects that work towards fostering an exchange between new and long-term residents using the following ‘tools’: rooms in flatshares and cooking.
Imagine this: you are forced to leave your home as a result of the outbreak of war, political persecution, poverty or because natural disasters and the effects of climate change have made life in your area unliveable. You have arrived in Germany with the hope that things will get better. But it is not so easy. Your accommodation is dirty and full, people do not treat you with any confidence or trust and you are either ignored or discriminated against.
Now imagine this: you have a room in your flat free and are searching for a new flatmate. This new person could be the same person we have just described – someone who has come to Germany seeking refuge or protection.
You think: why not?! But how would that actually work? Flüchtlinge Willkommen is an initiative that helps connect displaced persons with those offering a room to rent in a simple way that helps both parties circumvent any bureaucracy. Anyone with a room to offer just needs to register via the website and then comes into contact with an operator who mediates contact with a refugee.
Who covers the rent? It is often the case that refugees and asylum seekers arrive in a new country with little to no money. Given that rent does not pay itself, Flüchtlinge Willkommen takes the following approach: the rent is covered via micro-credit financing or crowdfunding. The platform puts the renter in contact with potential donors or works with everyone involved to determine a financing method. In the most altruistic cases, some people with a room to spare offer it to refugees free of charge. 20 displaced persons have already been given a roof over their heads in various places in Germany courtesy of the platform. The idea is not just a one-off either: in Lübeck, a similar initiative, called Interkulturelle WG (Intercultural flat) is run by local students. The team behind Flüchtlinge Willkommen has a special emphasis on finding accommodation for illegal refugees.
No Room to Rent? How About Time?
Anyone who does not have a free room but would like to help can do so by cooking together with refugees, going on an excursion or just playing some pool – exactly these types of activities are what Über den Tellerand kochen sets up! The idea is that food brings people from all cultures and all backgrounds together. The team is currently putting together a football team and training will start in May. Want to kick it and cook with the team? Send a mail to email@example.com
There are a number of ways to welcome new arrivals. If your journey leads you to Vienna and you are looking for a stylish hotel with social value, head to the magdas hotel. Run by the organisation Caritas, the hotel employs 20 refugees who, with the help of coaches, take care of the guests.
Most important of all? Keep an open mind.