The public is showing an enormous willingness to help refugees who are arriving in Germany. The arrival of more than 1.2 million people since 2015 poses a great challenge to volunteer and full-time supporters, associations and local authorities. Thanks to remarkable and concerted efforts, within a few weeks, housing was organized and other basic needs were met for people who had fled from hunger, civil war, and terror. At the same time this highly stressful process has also led to misunderstandings, frictions, and conflicts between the involved parties.
While ensuring basic needs in the first months, we are now confronted with solving structural integration tasks for the many people who will likely be staying in Germany for some years. One of several challenges is the mediation between the support programs offered by institutions and companies and the refugees' needs. Different dynamics between volunteers and local authorities have to be bridged as well, requiring discussion and mutual understanding. Volunteers, local authorities, civil society organizations, and the refugees themselves are voicing the need for more tailored advice, an exchange of experiences, and also (trans-) regional networks.
It is highly important that refugees, volunteers, and local authorities can get to know each other and build the networks necessary for better communication and understanding.
To this end, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung offers the format “NETZ Workshop for Integration”, which is part of the focus project “Working with refugees and volunteer supporters” and aims at enabling exchanges between local actors of refugee support. NETZ stands for “networking, empowerment, transparency and solidarity”. In a given city/region/district, a “NETZ Workshop for Integration”, serves as a forum for expert advice, exchange and networking. The workshop creates both a protected and creative space for mutual appreciation and visions for shared development. Sustainable cooperation structures by local actors should be encouraged, as they can be harnessed towards the success of integration processes.
Apart from better integration into the education system and the job market, a successful integration into society also requires getting familiar with democratic values and with opportunities for participation. This, however, cannot wait until a sufficient proficiency of the German language is reached.
Therefore, on behalf of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Arabic and Persian-language trainers have been holding seminars on social studies with refugees in several federal states since the end of 2015. The focus of these seminars is on providing education on the basic framework of German politics, the central values of democracy, and the rules of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), as well as on ways of participating in society, regardless of residence status. In terms of the methodical approach, the emphasis of the seminars is on interactive methods such as simulation games, future outlook workshops and similar formats. So far, over 450 refugees have taken part in more than 30 of such seminars.
Within the framework of the series “Together in NRW” (North Rhine-Westphalia), the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has been travelling through the state since early 2016. The central topic was the integration of refugees. From Bonn to Bielefeld, from Düsseldorf to Dortmund, various aspects of integration of refugees are on the agenda, such as access to the job market, to higher education, integration through sports or inner-city neighborhoods. “Working together in Dortmund”, “Studying together in Cologne” or “Moving together in Iserlohn” are three vivid examples.
Refugees are actively involved in these events. In addition, political leaders, administration officials, business representatives, and members of civil society take part in such discussions. Celebrities such as Ranga Yogeshwar and Gerald Asamoah are only two of nearly 100 speakers. All in all, about 2000 guests have taken part in the 14 events held so far all over the state.
More information, including event reports, can be found here: http://www.fes.de/de/landesbuero-nrw/themen-reihen-gespraechskreise/miteinander-in-nrw/
Since the beginning of 2016, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's office in the state of NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) has been offering seminars for volunteers who are actively involved in refugee aid work. These seminars offer technical support, further training opportunities, and a platform to exchange ideas and build networks. And, last but not least, this format is meant as a way to show appreciation for the volunteers’ tireless commitment which is essential for the successful integration of refugees in Germany.
Today, the local FES office offers five seminar topics: Introduction into asylum law, intercultural sensitization, dealing with right-wing hostility and violence, exchange of volunteer experiences as well as integration into the labor market. The seminars take place on weekends in North Rhine-Westphalia. Contact: martin.pfafferott(at)fes.de