Today in Germany hundreds of thousands of refugees arrive each year, looking for asylum and safety. Many are from primarily Islamic nations.
The massive influx of people has strained local officials— finding adequate housing for everyone is a challenge.
Many cities have put massive amounts of refugees in old schools or re-purposed shipping containers. Often, the refugees are not welcome in their new neighborhoods due to religious tension. According to National Public Radio, “The western German city of Schwerte even proposed placing 21 refugees in a barracks on the grounds of a Nazi-era concentration camp.”
Berlin Residents Mareike Geiling and Jonas Kakoschke believe that refugees deserve a more humane treatment than mass, impersonal accommodations. This prompted them to create the organization Refugees Welcome— a website that matches refugees looking for asylum with people in Germany and Austria willing to open their homes to these people in need.
“We don’t like the idea of putting these people into one place where many, many people live,” explained Geiling to NPR.
“Many asylum-seekers have to stay there for years … doing nothing, because they are not allowed to do anything. They are not allowed to work, they are not allowed to have German classes sometimes and sometimes it’s not a city, it’s a village and there’s nothing to do and so you get depressed after years and stuff like this,” said Kakoschke.
Kakoschke and Geiling are a couple living in Berlin, and they were the first to open their doors to a refugee in need. The couple matched with a thirty-nine year old Muslim man from Mali, who had recently applied for asylum and is waiting for a working permit. For this reason, Kakoschke and Geiling raise money to cover their new roommates cost of rent and utilities.
NPR reports that the Malian man is afraid to give his name for safety reasons, but said “It surprised me a lot because … the people here don’t want to see people like us in their land.”
Before Kakoschke and Geiling opened their doors to him, the roommate was homeless. “Sometimes I’d take the bus from different sector to different sector at nighttime until, you know, 2:30” in the morning, he says. Then he’d “get out and sleep for 20 minutes and go back on the train again sometimes and go back in the mosque and pray there for 30 minutes and sleep there for one hour.”
Refugees Welcome has been very successful so far on a small scale. The website has matched 122 refugees to welcoming German and Austrian flatmates.
Refugees Welcome reports, “Through Refugees Welcome people have moved in to 80 homes in Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Darmstadt, Dortmund, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover, Konstanz, Leipzig, Marburg, Munich, Munster, Norderstedt, Offenburg and Wolfratshausen. Through Refugees Welcome Austria (our Austrian sister-organisation) people have moved in to 44 places in Eisenstadt, Knittelfeld, Salzburg and Vienna. The new flatmates are 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.”
– Aaron Andree