Sports in Greek Refugee CampsA number of humanitarian organizations provide opportunities for migrants to play sports in Greek refugee camps. Families often have to live in extremely dehumanizing and mentally taxing conditions in the camps. Lesvos, one of the encampments helped by the programs, is situated on the eastern Mediterranean migration route. When refugees began arriving on the island in 2015, Lesvos residents welcomed the refugees with open arms, and the island earned the Nansen Refugee Award and a nomination for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. 


More and more refugees came to the island due to the open environment. Conditions quickly became overcrowded, and refugees lacked access to basic necessities. Some call the island a European “open-air refugee prison.” Refugees must stay on the island while the government reviews their refugee status, and the government has rejected all demands to create new refugee camps, resulting in a packed and underserviced area. Some have waited for years for a decision on their asylum case as they continue to live on the island with their families. 

In 2022, about 1,500 asylum seekers were living on the island. They live in makeshift camps with barely any access to food, shelter, medicine and education for their children. The EU has failed to establish a sufficient allocation system to relieve the pressure on Italy and Greece, leading to overcrowded camps like Lesvos that can only offer limited aid. Four other Greek islands are also home to makeshift refugee camps. 

The Katsikas camp is another underserviced camp helped by Yoga and Sport and Soup and Socks. The Katsikas camp is the largest refugee encampment in the Epirus region of Greece, which hosts more than 3,000 migrants. In 2020, the European Commission published its New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which focuses on returns and deterrence of migrants rather than improving human rights standards in existing refugee camps or preparing new camps to elevate the pressure off of overcrowded camps like the one in Lesvos. Authorities especially dehumanize migrants in Katsika. The camp has slowly adopted the structure of a prison.

A Beacon of Hope

In 2022, the government built 3-meter-high walls around the camp, and the camp director announced a curfew from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., with migrants needing permission to leave and enter the camp during those hours. Security cameras have been installed all over the camp to surveil the migrants. Interviewed migrants indicated their disapproval of the wall and expressed a sense of alienation and separation from the surrounding Greek community.

As such, these humanitarian organizations’ work is instrumental in maintaining morale and allowing refugees a brief reprieve from their harsh reality. Becoming passionate about a sport offers a brief diversion from the stressful conditions of the camp. Sports in Greek refugee encampments may start as a way to find joy in the encampments. Still, it can also become a lifelong commitment, with some refugees expressing a desire to make a career in the sport by joining a more advanced professional athletic team or becoming teachers of the sport. Habibi and Sports with Refugees (HSR), led by Soup and Socks in partnership with Yoga and Sport, has a tremendous impact on refugees in the Katsikas camp. HSR allows refugees to choose different sports, including yoga, running, swimming, martial arts, dance and climbing. 

Another program initiated by the organization in 2016 called Habibi-Works gives refugees in the area a chance to develop their creativity by running a maker space facility near the encampment. The makerspace features a media lab, a metal and wood workspace and a sewing atelier. The program allows the refugees to explore the arts and develop technical skills that could be useful in their future careers.

Final Thoughts

Bringing sport to Greek refugee encampments and allowing the refugees to explore creative outlets are incredibly impactful methods of raising morale and giving a sense of community to the often-alienated migrants. By fostering connections, promoting self-expression, and offering an escape from the challenges they face, these initiatives play a vital role in creating a more supportive and inclusive environment for migrants.

– Tatiana Gnuva
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in South SudanSouth Sudan, a small country, has a population of 12 million people, and poverty affects around 82% of them. Conflict and displacement are among the biggest contributors to this situation. Out of the 12 million citizens, more than 2 million are refugees. This refugee crisis worsens poverty in the country due to limited resource accessibility, challenges in implementing initiatives and overall disorganized communication. In response, organizations are utilizing new technologies to address these issues, providing refugees in South Sudan with the protection and quality of life they deserve through specific communication and health programs.


Fingerprinting, or “biometric registration,” is a widely used tool in refugee camps that provides faster recognition and improved assistance for the most vulnerable individuals. Previously, refugee camps worldwide have included refugees in databases, but now biometric data is being added to these logs in refugee camps in South Sudan. Adding this data enables a more precise allocation of resources and clearer communication regarding individual needs for recovery. Furthermore, the precision allows for follow-ups with particularly vulnerable individuals to ensure ongoing support. This is especially beneficial for the major demographics of the camps, which consist of approximately 70% of women and children who have specific needs, such as pregnant women or malnourished children.


In South Sudan, mapping the biometric data in refugee camps has become an imperative initiative to assist refugees. Workers collect the data and place it in an interactive map, enabling easy visualization of the camp demographics and spatial distribution of individuals. This comprehensive view offers deeper insights into individual households, enabling workers to prioritize assistance for the most vulnerable individuals.

Mapping projects are actively aiding health initiatives in refugee camps, particularly in mitigating the spread of disease. These projects enable the identification of outbreak epicenters, allowing for faster and more precise delivery of aid to those in need. As a result, there is an efficient and effective allocation of resources to minimize waste.

Mapping projects actively contribute to the crucial psychological work conducted in refugee camps to ensure that refugees feel respected, understood and dignified. These projects also foster effective communication by directly gathering information from refugees. Additionally, mapping projects enable the accountability of camp overseers, as refugees can openly discuss service adequacy and concerns. Moreover, they highlight the importance of active participation by refugees in South Sudan, allowing them to become empowered and resilient members of society. By collaborating with those experiencing the greatest hardships, their needs can be fully understood and addressed.


The development of technology in refugee camps in South Sudan has positively impacted communication, fostering connections not only between staff and patrons but also among fellow refugees. Refugee workers have provided cell phones to facilitate easy communication, enabling refugees to access resources, accurate information and individualized assistance. Reports indicate that approximately 91% of refugees in South Sudan now have phone access, highlighting the effectiveness of this approach. Specifically, women in these camps have benefited from cell phone access, experiencing improved communication and peer support, leading to increased confidence, empowerment and stronger relationships within the group, as well as with friends, family and the community. This demonstrates the potential of utilizing mobile phones to address health inequities and promote positive psychosocial outcomes within other marginalized refugee communities.

Technology developed to assist refugees in South Sudan plays a vital role in alleviating the crisis. Governments must fund the continuation and duplication of such programs through foreign aid initiatives to ensure that refugees in South Sudan and globally have access to necessary resources and receive the individual assistance they deserve.

– Ada Rose Wagar
Photo: Flickr

Ukrainian Refugees
The 2022 Russian invasion and assault have resulted in the emergence of Ukrainian refugees. The majority have stayed in Europe, with almost every country taking people in. All these individual nations have been different in regard to dealing with Ukrainian refugees. Here is a brief look into what six European countries have done for Ukrainian refugees.

  1. Poland: Poland is the country that has admitted the most refugees, with almost 1.4 million reported, many of them children. In Poland, both the UNICEF and the Japanese government have been assisting Ukrainians. Aid efforts include setting up special schools for refugees. Many Polish people offered their support in the beginning stages. But recently, support has reportedly dwindled. Nevertheless, there are still committed volunteers offering assistance to incoming refugees.
  2. Romania: In terms of Ukrainian refugees’ health, the country that took the initiative was Romania, as some countries had trouble dealing with the medical needs of a large refugee population. The partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and Romania led to great results.
  3. Lithuania: The nation of Lithuania had a major refugee population, which it found financially taxing. In earlier crises, the EU had set aside funds to help. In Lithuania, this money has mostly been used up. In addition, Lithuania also expressed interest in helping rebuild Ukraine after the victory. Ukraine is not yet in the EU, so that would need to happen concurrently.
  4. The United Kingdom: The U.K. has been supporting Ukraine since the 2014 crisis. It provided financial support that Russia might have taken, specifically with energy. The aid was planned to end right before the 2022 invasion. With the recent refugee influx, the U.K. government has set up the Ukraine Family Scheme to manage migrants, of which more than 200,000 have applied thus far. The U.K. has used a large part of its aid budget to help refugees. This includes those that have come to Britain and even those that have gone elsewhere.
  5. Germany: Germany is another nation that has taken in a large population of Ukrainian refugees, with more than 1 million intakes thus far. This mirrors its response to recent similar events. Unfortunately, it would seem things have not been going as well this time, with both available support and public opinion down. Despite this, some volunteers are still willing to support refugees, even if it gets risky. According to reports, there is a train that goes directly from war-torn Ukraine to Germany.
  6. Finland: Some European nations, especially smaller ones, worry that they may not be able to support large refugee populations. One example would be the Eastern European country of Estonia. Estonia negotiated with Finland to accept refugees from them. The two nations have around the same amount of refugees coming in. Finland was planning to take in 50-100 refugees a week from Estonia, but around 400-500 new refugees register with the country weekly. 

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges posed by the Ukrainian refugee crisis resulting from the 2022 Russian invasion, several European countries have shown commendable efforts in providing support and assistance. Nations like Poland, Romania, Lithuania, the United Kingdom, Germany and Finland have taken various measures to accommodate and aid Ukrainian refugees, including setting up special schools, addressing health care needs and implementing specific schemes. Although some challenges and concerns have emerged, the commitment of volunteers and international collaborations is indicative of the collective commitment to assisting those affected by the conflict.

– Josh Sobchak
Photo: Flickr

Moldova is Helping Ukrainian RefugeesA former republic of the Soviet Union, Moldova is one of Europe’s poorest countries, with a poverty rate of 26.8% as of 2020. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova faced economic hardship, widespread corruption and political instability, but made progress between 2006 and 2015 toward national poverty reduction.

However, since early 2020, Moldova has experienced a series of intense economic shocks beginning with the COVID-19 pandemic that led to an estimated loss of nearly 8% of jobs across the nation, disproportionately affecting young workers. In 2020, Moldova also experienced one of the worst droughts in recent decades, which reduced agricultural production by 34%. In late 2021, the European gas crisis adversely affected the nation for several months, which increased gas prices by 400%, until Moldova’s government signed a new contract with a Russian-controlled gas company. By February 2022, Moldova was beginning to recover from these shocks, but the sudden outbreak of war when Russian forces invaded Ukraine threatened Moldova’s immediate economic recovery and future trajectory.

How Moldova is Helping Ukrainian Refugees

Despite the nation’s challenges, Moldova’s government and citizens have made remarkable efforts to help Ukrainian refugees. Since the start of the war, more than 460,000 Ukrainian refugees fleeing the invasion have traveled through Moldova, with nearly 100,000 refugees choosing to remain in the nation. The Moldovan government immediately set up facilities for refugees, offering medical and psychological assistance at the war’s onset. Officials also extended the right to live and work in Moldova to Ukrainian refugees, along with access to health care services and education. Notably, 95% of the refugees are staying with Moldovan families.

Humanitarian Organizations Supporting Moldova’s Efforts

UNHCR, the U.N.’s Refugee Agency, has assisted the Moldovan government through a series of measures, expanding its staff by nearly 100 members in the nation since the crisis began. The agency is helping Ukrainian refugees and supporting the work of local authorities in Moldova by offering access to information, health and legal services, child protection services, initiatives to prevent human trafficking and gender-based violence as well as offering transportation to European Union countries. A core component of the UNHCR’s response effort is a cash assistance program that allows Ukrainian refugees to receive around 2,200 Moldovan Lei (equivalent to $120) each month. The process is facilitated through enrollment centers and mobile teams that help refugees enroll, and the program has already helped more than 50,000 refugees in Moldova receive cash.

The World Bank has also implemented initiatives to help Moldova build economic resilience and mitigate the impacts of the war in Ukraine. In June 2022, the World Bank allocated $159.24 million to Moldova as part of an Emergency Response, Resilience and Competitiveness Development Policy Operation (DPO). Moldova’s government remains committed to its social and economic developmental reform agenda, and this relief funding will allow the government to support the country’s immediate needs while also providing momentum for long-term recovery efforts.

– Oliver De Jonghe
Photo: Flickr

Bike Campaign to Help Ukrainian RefugeesThousands of Ukrainians fleeing Ukraine enter the city of Lviv daily, about 40 miles from the Polish border. With 200,000 additional residents due to the influx of Ukrainian refugees, the city of Lviv faces logistical challenges as buses and trains become overcrowded. Bikes4Ukraine is a new bike campaign to help Ukrainian refugees move around the city of Lviv.

The War

Russia attacked and invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. By June 15, 2022, around 5 million Ukrainians had fled to neighboring countries while others faced internal displacement. According to Al Jazeera, by March 2022, more than 10 million Ukrainians faced displacement and hundreds of civilians had lost their lives. The invasion, led by President Vladimir Putin, marks the “biggest war on a European state since World War II.” The invasion of Ukraine has had a global impact —  amid “recovery from the COVID-19 recession,” the world now grapples with further economic downturn. However, in the grips of another world crisis, the international community is stepping up to assist Ukrainians in need.

Helping Those in Need

Due to overcrowding in Lviv as a result of the influx of Ukrainian refugees, individuals are finding it difficult to access public transportation to move around the city. Lviv, now with 200,000 more residents, faces challenges as more people now need living spaces and require transportation to move around the city.

A new bike campaign to help Ukrainian refugees, called Bikes4Ukraine, looks to address these logistical issues. According to Fast Company, Bikes4Ukraine began in May 2022 with the help of Copenhagen-based cycling infrastructure guru Mikael Colville-Andersen, founder of the urban bike consultancy Copenhagenize. In May 2022, Orest Oleskiv, head of the Transport Office in Lviv, reached out to Colville-Andersen to find out how to bring in surplus bikes from Denmark.

Colville-Andersen quickly established the Bikes4Ukraine campaign in response to the need for transportation in Lviv. Bikes4Ukraine will donate bicycles to Lviv from Copenhagen, Denmark, a city famous for having “more bikes than people,” Fast Company reports. Lviv is also addressing logistical issues by adding “more than 12 miles of new bike lanes with protective barriers” to make it easier for those on bikes to get around.

The short-term goal of the bike campaign to help Ukrainian refugees is to get 2,000 bikes in healthy condition for people to ride without complications. Colville-Andersen hopes to see the campaign “grow to 100,000 bikes or even a million,” Fast Company reports.

The Solution

Considering that the war has displaced around 10 million people, bikes are necessary to ease the pressure on existing public transport systems. During the Russia-Ukraine crisis, bikes hold multiple benefits in light of high fuel costs and road infrastructure damage. Bikes can stand as advantageous transport options because they do not require fuel and can travel off-road.

Similar campaigns also look to collect bikes for Ukrainian refugees by involving not just Denmark but also other countries with bike surpluses, like Ireland and Canada. However, Bikes4Ukraine is the first large-scale initiative to also send bike donations to Ukraine itself.

Through the efforts of the international community, Ukrainian refugees can look to a brighter tomorrow.

– Alexis King
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NGOs in Turkey
Turkey has the largest refugee population in the world, hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and about 320,000 refugees from other countries. With mass amounts of people migrating to Turkey, there are several complications that must be accounted for, one being the issue of accessible education for those entering the country. Listed below are three NGOs in Turkey that have been helping refugees and local students access educational resources.

Darussafaka Society

Five young male scholars founded the Darussafaka Society in 1863 with the aim of providing quality education and resources to those in need. The Darussafaka Society provides scholarships and academic opportunities to children in need of financial aid or children who have lost a parent. Each year, 120 students receive opportunities from the Darussafaka Society. Its aim is to present equality of opportunity in education to its students, even though its students do not come from financially stable households. Darussafaka alumni have found successful careers in both the public and private sectors in Turkey. Many others have taken the opportunity to study and work abroad. As the Darussafaka Society boasts more than 155 years of experience, it is currently working to provide online learning options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including international programs, through a virtual format.

Turkish Educational Foundation

The Turkish Educational Foundation (TEF) is one of the oldest educational philanthropic NGOs in Turkey, as it has been in service for about 51 years. Unique to the other NGOs, TEF is based in Berkeley, CA, allowing it to have more international connections and resources than foundations solely based in Turkey. TEF’s primary objective is to provide accessible education to those in need regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Each year, TEF supports 1,000 Turkish students with their programs. It offers several unique programs for international volunteers including a Youth Group which works to fundraise and communicate their message, and an English Learning Program where students can learn from English-speaking volunteers from around the world. TEF is currently working with its Youth Group to maintain the program’s success throughout the COVID-19 pandemic via virtual fundraisers and events.

The Imece Initiative

The Imece Initiative, one of the most prominent NGOs in Turkey, has been working since 2014 to provide education services specifically to Syrian refugees in Turkey. One of the Imece Initiative’s primary beliefs is that education should not undergo distribution based on a child’s ethnic background, but that education should be accessible to everyone. “We wanted to create a community free of political and religious considerations,” stated founder Ali Güray Yalvaçlı. “To give the opportunity for anyone, regardless of their background, to contribute with their skills and time to help those in need.” One of its most notable projects is The Solar Age Project, which supports women refugees in Turkey by teaching them life skills that help them in finding employment once they undergo establishment in the country.

With organizations like these, it is easy to see that there are lots of opportunities for both refugee and native students in Turkey to receive the best education possible. Though it can be easy to lose oneself in the negative effects of poverty in the world, organizations like the ones introduced above provide hope for a better future of education for all.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Relocate Afghan Refugees
The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal has left hundreds of thousands of Afghans either displaced or seeking refuge. The United Nations has estimated that
 up to 500,000 Afghans will flee Afghanistan by the end of 2021. As a result, as the Taliban’s power continues to grow, countries across the globe have opened their doors to help relocate Afghan refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one global organization that is taking a lead in this relocation work. The IRC helps relocate Afghan refugees in Mexico, Uganda and Pakistan.

About the International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933, the IRC responds to catastrophes and humanitarian crises across the globe. Since its inception, the IRC assists those who have had to relocate by providing them with lifesaving care and long-term stability. To date, the IRC operates in over 40 counties and 22 U.S. cities offering a range of support to people who have been uprooted and are struggling.

How the IRC Helps Relocate Afghan Refugees

For the past 30 years, the IRC has worked to provide aid to Afghanistan and continues to amid the ongoing crisis. On August 31, 2021, the IRC announced that the Mexican government will welcome 175 refugees arriving in Mexico City. Throughout its history and to date, Mexico has been a safe haven for those seeking refuge. Upon their arrival, the IRC provides urgent medical care, welcome kits, COVID-19 PPE and Psychological First Aid (PFA) to those who need it. The IRC has also announced plans to provide refugees in Mexico with cash cards to communicate with families still in Afghanistan.

Uganda is a second country that works with the IRC. Since 1998, Uganda and the IRC have supported over 1.5 million refugees and are currently working with the United States and United Kingdom embassies to provide asylum for Afghan refugees. Similar to Mexico’s approach, upon arriving in Uganda, refugees receive housing, medical assistance, COVID-19 PPE, sanitary products and temporary immigration cards. IRC staff onsite in Uganda have also provided refugees with a 24/7 medical clinic along with individual and group psychosocial services.

The IRC has also been working with Pakistan since 1980 and the partnership has helped more than 3 million Afghan refugees relocate. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has depleted much of Pakistan’s resources and ravaged its economy, Pakistani officials have assured temporary asylum for new refugees coming from Afghanistan. The IRC helps Afghan relocate refugees arriving in Pakistan by supporting them through cash assistance, health care, job training and “child-friendly spaces” where children can play and attend school in a safe environment. 

Types of Support the IRC Receives

  • Donations. The IRC website offers multiple avenues for people to donate. The Rescue Gifts page includes hundreds of gifts ranging from baby kits and survival kits to a year of school for two girls. People can also make a one-time or monthly donation that will go towards providing refugees with medical care and other emergency assistance. The IRC spends 87% of all donations on programming.
  • Volunteers. Volunteers help coordinate community outreach in various areas by hosting donation drives or working internships to get hands-on experience with refugee resettlement. They also help refugees adjust when they make it to the U.S. by hosting refugees in their homes with IRC’s partner Airbnb.
  • Community Support. Individuals can call their representatives and mobilize community members to contact their representatives. In addition, you can work alongside the IRC’s Policy and Advocacy team in the fight for policies and legislation. Text RESCUE to 40649 to start taking action

A Promising Future

The road ahead will be tough for Afghanistan and for the Afghan refugees. Nevertheless, the IRC’s support will change the course of the refugee crisis one donation at a time. 

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

How These 3 NGOs Are Helping Eritrean Refugees
The ongoing conflict in the Tigray province of Ethiopia has wreaked devastation. In November 2020, after months of political turmoil, the Ethiopian government launched a military offensive against Tigray regional forces. As a result, an estimated 353,000 people are in the worst classification for food security and thousands more have died. U.N.-backed data also show that 1.7 million are near maximum risk of food insecurity. Because of the crisis, several NGOs are taking on the fight in helping Eritrean Refugees. Here is how three NGOs are helping Eritrean refugees.

The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE)

John Stauffer founded The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE) in 2010, which is an organization that provides aid to Eritrean refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and around the globe. TATDE works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by providing refugees in the U.S. and globally with adequate housing and resettlement support. This includes a new apartment checklist and a picture dictionary that translates Tigrinya, a prominent language that Eritrean people speak, to English.

In collaboration with other NGOs, TATDE assists in fielding emergency calls from Eritrean refugees on the run, defecting Eritrean individuals officials and those facing deportation. Some noteworthy work includes a scholarship program designed to provide nursing and other medical training to refugees living in camps.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides clean water, education, medical aid and shelter to those who have had to flee or have experienced displacement. Operating in more than 30 countries and with about 15,000 humanitarians, NRC aims to rebuild futures and save lives. Working with Eritrea’s Ministry of Education, NRC helps provide Eritrean refugees with educational and economic programs. The main goals include:

  • Offering training in hairdressing, electrical installation, masonry, plumbing and irrigation skills and fishery.
  • Providing business starter kits to recent graduates of business management, thus incentivizing them to start their own businesses.
  • Ensuring that teachers receive hands-on training and classrooms have the proper tools and supplies.
  • Maintaining and supporting the training curriculum helping Eritrean refugees.

To date, about 6.6 million people have benefited from the WASH program in Eritrea. The WASH program focuses on providing sanitary water to displaced people in refugee camps and shelters. The program helps use safe water for drinking, cooking, personal hygiene, solid waste management and public restrooms.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

In the first six months of 2020, UNHCR responded to the crisis by providing food and sanitary assistance to refugee camps on a monthly basis. Due to the current conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, the work helping Eritrean refugees significantly slowed down. Access to the refugee camps remained suspended from July 13, 2020 to August 4, 2021, after violent clashes in the region prevented staff from reaching the refugee camps. UNHCR plans to allow for 200 refugees to receive regular cash assistance and 400 to receive protection assistance.

Progress is slow and while the Eritrean refugees still face hardships, efforts by NGOs like the UNHCR, The Norwegian Refugee Council and The American Team for Displaced Eritreans continue to show the good in humanity.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

afghan refugeesThe recent resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan has sparked fear in Afghan citizens, resulting in large numbers of Afghans fleeing Afghanistan to seek refuge in other countries. Some countries have welcomed Afghan refugees with open arms, but others simply do not have the capacity to host large groups of refugees. As many countries around the world scurry to help Afghan refugees find shelter, Airbnb has stepped up to help. “The displacement and resettlement of Afghan refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere is one of the biggest humanitarian crises of our time. We feel a responsibility to step up,” says Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky.

Airbnb to the Rescue

On August 24, 2021, Airbnb announced the offering of “free temporary housing” for roughly 20,000 Afghan refugees across the globe. Two days after, on August 26, the company added that any ordinary individual, not just the company’s “hosts,” can offer temporary housing through its services. This may potentially open up substantially more temporary housing options. For Afghan refugees, this offer of temporary shelter could bring some stability amid a crisis. For world governments, temporary housing could be key to avoiding a repeat of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Airbnb’s plan comes through its Open Homes platform, a tool created by the company in 2017 after former President Trump’s administration implemented a travel ban on several predominantly Muslim nations, including war-torn and heavily displaced Syria. At the time, countries such as Germany were grappling with a surge of refugees from Syria. Airbnb’s plan in 2017 looked to “provide short-term housing over the next five years for 100,000 people in need.” The company is building on that promise through the Open Homes platform.

How the Open Homes Platform Works

The purpose of Open Homes is to “Give people a place to call home in times of crisis.” Open Homes serves as a middle ground for refugees from Afghanistan and other conflicted nations to create a plan for more permanent housing. Airbnb’s platform works as a tool for hosts to open their homes to screened and approved guests including refugees. According to the company’s website, hosts receive a guide on the process of listing their home as a temporary residence.

The process is similar to Airbnb’s staple rental service. However, Airbnb’s announcement on August 26 made it clear that more than established hosts can use the platform to help. The platform relies on donations to cover the costs of temporary housing. Donations can be made by anyone willing to help cover the costs of refugee stays. For Afghan refugees, the platform is established and tested and may serve as an important tool in navigating the crisis.

The Importance of Temporary Housing

By definition, a refugee is an individual that cannot return to their home country due to reasons that jeopardize their safety and well-being. As the Afghan refugee crisis begins, there is precedent that can serve as guidance for how the U.S. can address this humanitarian issue. From past refugee crises, humanitarian groups find that shelter is one of the most important aspects of addressing the issue. Without a place to call home, refugees are denied the basic rights to adequate shelter and safety.

Temporary housing provides safety while refugees find more stable living situations. An influx of refugees with no place to go places greater strain on governmental agencies. This also potentially means more taxpayer money would go toward temporary housing subsidies and the governmental mediation of desperate refugees. Private options such as Open Homes can supplement the burden that the government and taxpayers struggle to fill.

According to the nonprofit Refugees Welcome!, asylum seekers lack “access to housing, food stamps or other benefits afforded to documented immigrants or citizens.” For people forcibly displaced by conflict such as current Afghan refugees, programs such as Open Homes provide a solution to the lack of safe and proper shelter for influxes of refugees. Open Homes may be the only viable option for families forced out of a nation.

To help address the Afghan refugee crisis, Airbnb’s Open Homes platform provides a commendable solution. Even an ordinary individual can get involved in this initiative, providing hope to vulnerable people with no place to call home.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

TusseThe 19-year-old singer Tusse recently represented the country of Sweden at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. Tusse first rose to fame after advancing to the semi-finals of Sweden’s Got Talent and later winning Swedish Idol in 2019. With the song “Voices,” Tusse took 14th place at Eurovision. As a Congolese refugee, Tusse uses his platform to educate and empower young people facing similar challenges as he has.

Tusse’s Journey

Tusse, whose real name is Tousin Michael Chiza, was born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 2002. At 5 years old, Tusse and his family fled to a Ugandan refugee camp due to the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He left with his aunt, siblings and cousins. The escape effort separated Tusse from his parents. The family spent three years in the refugee camp until Sweden granted them asylum. The family then settled in Kullsbjörken, Sweden, in 2015 when Tusse was 13 years old. Tusse says that retaining his Congolese culture, filled with music and dancing, is what drove him to become a performer and singer, ultimately leading him to the Eurovision stage.

Civil War-Torn Country

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second-largest African country and has faced conflict for decades. The country experienced its second civil war from 1997 to 2003, only a year after the end of the First Congo War. Sometimes called the “African World War” due to the involvement of several neighboring countries, the war claimed close to six million lives directly through the effects of fighting or indirectly through malnutrition, financial despair or disease. Economic and political reasons surrounding the nation’s vast mineral wealth fueled the war.

Despite a peace deal at the war’s conclusion, violent conflict continued in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This conflict was due to poor governance, weak institutions and rising corruption. Armed conflict rose among dozens of rebel groups, consequently affecting and disrupting civilians’ lives. More than 2.1 million people were newly displaced in 2017 and 2018, nationally. In Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the highest number of internally displaced people at more than five million.

Overall, the conflict has subjected Congolese residents to significant human rights violations, extreme poverty and widespread rape and sexual assault. Efforts from the African Union and the United Nations to help implement sustainable development and defuse tensions have struggled to see success. As a result, most civilians are forced to flee and seek asylum elsewhere.

Sweden’s Relationship with Refugees

Sweden has one of the most generous refugee policies in Europe. Sweden has actively welcomed refugees seeking asylum in the country. However, there has been some domestic pushback to this hospitable policy, particularly in 2015, following the migration crisis when Sweden received more than 160,000 refugees, the most per capita in the European Union. This tension was heightened when many other European countries were unwilling to accept the influx of refugees. As a result, the Swedish government passed a temporary measure limiting refugee rights to the bare minimum of what the country had previously agreed to under international conventions. Despite this, Sweden continues to receive significantly more refugees than the rest of Europe.

Tusse’s Advocacy

Tusse uses his platform and story to empower other young refugees and educate his fans on refugees’ challenges. He works with UNICEF and recently performed at Sweden’s UNICEF Gala. UNICEF utilizes partners on the ground to deliver assistance to displaced families and support children’s needs and rights. Among other projects, the organization provides and distributes hygiene kits, clean water, vaccinations for children and treatments for malnutrition.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) supported Tusse and two other Eurovision performers with refugee backgrounds prior to the competition. Manizha, a singer representing Russia, fled Tajikistan in 1994, and Ahmad Jodeh, a Dutch ballet dancer, is a Syrian refugee.

Tusse uses his music to share and voice his experiences as a refugee. At Eurovision, he sang “Voices,” which is about “fellowship, freedom and the importance of all voices being heard.” By gracing the Eurovision stage, Tusse brought awareness to the struggles of his home country, the challenges of adjusting to life as a refugee abroad and the resilience of young refugees.

– Simran Pasricha
Photo: UNHCR