The past week, news agents have been covering the global efforts to help Syrian refugees – from the Finnish Prime Minister opening up his home, to German football stars promoting hospitality, to 60,000 Iceland citizens volunteering to take in migrants.
Now there’s an online service where German and Austrian residents can share their flats and apartments with refugees.
The website Refugees Welcome – similar to Airbnb – has connected over 138 asylum-seekers with willing European housemates who’ve volunteered their homes.
“Why shouldn’t refugees in your country be able to live in shared flats (or other normal housing situations) instead of mass accommodation? We thought the same & found a way to make it possible.”
Residents can sign up by providing a brief summary of housing availability before they’re matched with a flatmate who is right for them. An external organization will then find a refugee who is suitable and put them in contact to arrange a meeting to make sure that the two can get along. After that, the refugee can either be funded by micro-donations, federal funding, or crowdfunding.
Not only is the housing a lifesaver for the refugee, but the ability to converse daily in German better assimilates them into the culture. The website currently has over 800 Europeans opening their doors to the influx of refugees.
The Berlin founders of Refugees Welcome, Mareike Geiling and her boyfriend Jonas Kakoshke, first got the idea because they were horrified by how refugees were being treated in their country.
“Many asylum-seekers have to stay there for years … doing nothing, because they are not allowed to do anything,” Kakoshke told NPR. “They are not allowed to work, they are sometimes not allowed to have German classes 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.”
All of the housemates that have been paired since the site’s creation, except for two, have had positive feedback with the exchange, and continue to insist upon giving the refugees a warm welcome to the country.