So far the sharing economy has offered innovative solutions to everything from reducing food waste to getting around town. Imagine what it could do for the unfolding European migrant crisis – now regularly described as the worst migration crisis since World War Two. Seeing the negativity facing migrants and feeling compassion for their plight, four young Germans have established Refugees Welcome, a service that matches refugees with local hosts to help them integrate into their new environment. After successfully matching 134 refugees with housemates, Refugees Welcome have been overwhelmed with offers of support and accommodation, as well as inquiries about setting up similar systems in other countries. Read on for details about how it all works.
The growing migrant crisis is highly controversial and divisive; it’s bringing out the best in people—witness the recent public call from Icelanders for their government to accept more refugees—but sadly also the worst. Refugees Welcome is a simple, practical response for anyone willing and able to open a room in their home or apartment to a refugee in need of accommodation. Those with accommodation to offer register with the site, explaining a bit about themselves, their location and their living arrangements. They are then matched with a refugee through local migrant support organizations, with minimum share arrangements set at three months in order to provide some stability for the new housemate. The cost of rent is covered by the migrant directly or through their support payments, by crowdfunding or through micro-donations made through the Refugees Welcome website, depending upon the individual refugee’s situation and residency status.
Refugees Welcome was co-founded by couple Jonas Kakoschke and Mareike Geiling, along with Golde Ebding and Lena Grote, because they felt there had to be a more welcoming way to help refugees integrate into German society than by putting them in mass accommodation, isolated from the rest of the community. Kakoschke and Geiling share their Berlin flat with with Bakary Conan, originally from Mali. Conan had been living a very transient existence prior to moving in, but he now has his own room in the apartment and the couple have helped him with his German classes and finding his feet while he waits for his work permit to be approved. So far 82 refugees have been placed in Germany and 52 in Austria, coming from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria and Tunisia.
Germans and Austrians can register to become hosts via the Refugees Welcome website. If you don’t fit that demographic but would still like to support the initiative, you can make micro-donations to help pay a refugee’s rent via the site (the form is in German, just use Google Translate for English). If you like the idea so much that you want to set up a similar program in your own country, you can contact Refugees Welcome via this form to start the conversation. The group report that they have already had inquiries from Greece, Portugal, Scotland, Australia and the US.
Via The Guardian