A person is deemed a refugee when he or she has fled their own country because of a ‘well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’. The refugee crisis is a global problem, with an estimated 65.3 million people displaced worldwide; 21.3 million of these being refugees.
On a macro level, the true innovative response is to focus on how nations address the underlying reasons that are causing people to flee their home countries. On an immediate and pragmatic level this is an issue of international and domestic geopolitics, far beyond our control. It will take a considerable amount of time and resources to change the mind-set of those societies so damaged by strife that their citizens are forced to seek refuge elsewhere.
Given therefore that refugee crises are, effectively, a permanent feature of life, on a micro level we must look at innovative solutions enabling refugees to be integrated into those communities to which they have fled. By doing so, we help them and their families achieve a happy, settled and productive life. This benefits them and their host communities. A number of organisations are rising to the challenge of creating sustainable, long-term solutions to support refugees in this way. The Twenty Mile Club have spotlighted 3 such company initiatives that are aiding refugees that are in crisis.
The Twenty Mile Club Top 3
Over 60,000 refugees are living in Greece in unacceptable living conditions, whether that be in warehouses or camps. The daily humiliation of living like caged chickens, in temperatures that can be baking in summer and often falling below freezing in winter, with no idea of when they will be free to live a normal life and have the most basic health services, is both terrifying and debilitating.Basic housing is one of the most important needs and RefuAid are supporting sustainable local partners providing housing in Greece, bringing safety and a semblance of normality and safety to refugees. RefuAid’s housing project demonstrates that is can be far more cost effective over time to house refugees rather than to keep them in refugee camps. Once refugees are integrated into their host community, self-reliance invariably follows, bringing full social and economic benefits to Greece.
Geecycle’s mission is to recycle the many millions of discarded smartphones to refugees as they are upgraded by users. Mobile internet access is incredibly important in enabling refugees to be connected to the rest of the world, enabling them to scout out places to stay, routes to follow and to stay in contact with their friends and family in similar situations to themselves. Traveling with smartphones within Syria has been very dangerous, as government and Islamic State checkpoints often destroy devices during searches. Geecycle.org was established during the TechFugees Hack in London, by a team who saw that delivering smartphones to the most vulnerable groups of refugees helped them stay safer on their journey and then enabled more rapid integration for them into their new societies. This work continues today.
ReDi School of Digital Integration is a Berlin based non-profit organisation that teaches refugees basic digital skills and coding. The idea came about when co-founder, Anne Kjær Riechert, was talking with a refugee, in a home in Germany, who shared his passion for IT with her. Anne was aware that there were over 50,000 unfilled IT jobs in Germany and saw that teaching refugees to code would give them valuable skillsets, better prospects and a means in which they could give back to the German community. The school provides many training courses in computer programming, digital entrepreneurship, business intelligence and user interface design and has had hundreds of refugees pass through their programs. Many of them have gone on to set up businesses, fill IT jobs and join advanced IT based university courses.
Refugees living in crisis crave the simple normality of a family life, living as an integral and integrated part of their host state communities, whilst still observing their own traditions. Some attitudes towards refugees may need to change and efforts must be made to recognise and remember why refugees fled in the first place. These are people that have fled war zones, corrupt governments and were scared for their lives. They have so much they want to give back, and they do. Successful and positive initiatives such as those supported by The Twenty Mile Club encourage that process of integration, thereby directly benefitting the refugees and the host communities.