Wefugee: Supporting the Integration of Refugees in Germany
Migration is a hot topic in the international media at present. Germany’s recent decision to accept and welcome many new migrants from all over the world, including many African countries, has been commended by many, but, it has not been without its challenges. Migrants and refugees face an initial hurdle of arriving in a new, foreign country, but adapting to a new environment can present even more complicated challenges. Whether it be a different climate, different language, finding education and/or employment opportunities, or obtaining the correct visa, navigating the road to settling in a new country can be difficult.
Wefugee, short for “We are all Refugees” as well as “Welcome Refugees,” is a newly created internet platform designed and launched to support the integration of refugees in Germany. As a question and answer based service, it enables users of the site to ask questions and receive answers on a variety of issues from how to open a bank account to how to enroll in an educational institute. Answers to questions are provided by people who had to go through the same process of integration or residents of Germany who are familiar with such processes. According to Cornelia Roeper, founder of Wefugee, “for newcomers in a foreign country and without knowing the language it’s very hard to get answers to their questions. Regarding their integration it’s important to give them the possibility to ask questions like: ‘how do you say hello to each other? When are you giving someone your hand? Where can I buy medicine?’ to feel comfortable in their new society. For people living in Germany for a while it’s quite easy to answer these types of questions. Therefore we have built Wefugee.org to get them together and to help each other.”
The website helps fill the gap by aggregating scattered information provided by different government departments, NGOs, individuals, and other support services for refugees in Germany. Roeper notes, “we have seen so many people trying to help each other in Facebook. But if you have seen a good post and you want to link to this post, or find it again two days later, it’s nearly impossible to do so. Also refugee consulting initiatives all over Germany are working on the same questions over and over again and have no possibility to help each other. That is exactly what we want to change!”
Every person – whether they are a refugee or not – has the opportunity to answer questions, donate their time and/or money to support a particular person or cause, and just provide simple, but very useful, answers and information. A liking system (similar to Facebook) helps give credibility to the usefulness and reliability of questions and answers, which are categorised according to topic or theme.
To date, Wefugee has attracted over 500 confirmed members, but has the capacity to support over one million users. Designed to inspire a “Community Without Borders,” Wefugee is a non-profit social project. A significant challenge for Wefugee has been marketing and awareness raising, as many people (including refugees themselves) are not aware that such a platform exists. Commenting on this Roeper believes that “the more people we reach, the more people we can help with it! There are so many questions and also so many volunteers and organisations trying to answer all these question. We have the possibility to make it more professional to save them a substantial amount of work and time, and create one community, without borders.”