Where to house the refugees and how to assimilate them into the host country’s culture are the two main concerns of Europe’s refugee crisis and the sharing economy’s methods is being aimed by one non-profit organization in the region to try and provide solutions to the concerns.
811 asylum-seekers have been matched with corresponding and willing hosts with rooms and ready at helping them adapt to the new country by Refugees Welcome, a not for profit organization that had started its journey in 2014 in Germany and has since then expanded to nine other countries across Europe.
However the matches are very meager compared to the demand for rooms which obviously outweighed supply as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data shows that more than a million migrants have so far poured into Europe last year alone.
“We have over 10,000 [refugee] applications in Germany, and of course a lot less offers for rooms,” said Mareike Geiling, co-founder of Refugees Welcome, in a CNBC interview.
Since the match making can’t be done in any willy-nilly manner, hence it’s not just a lack of rooms that slows the non-profit’s progress.
With a process including questions about background, origin country, age and spoken languages, hosts and refugees must be screened, Geiling said. The need for the refugees and hosts to meet in person to cement the fit is amonsg the most crucial steps of the process, she added.
And Refugees Welcome recommended on its website that “the same rules apply as with any other flatmate – you try and find a solution,” adding “if needed, with our assistance” if the usual problems that come with cohabiting arise.
However overcoming reservations and prejudices against refugees is another very strong headwind that Refugees Welcome has to contend with to make a successful match.
“Last year in September was the highest point of registration for rooms, but we think because of the attacks in Paris and in Cologne, the registration for rooms declined a lot. We still have some 50 to 80 registrations per month, but it’s not comparable to last year,” Geiling said.
The belief that incoming refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country is shared by more than half of the eight European nations surveyed by Pew Research Center which released the survey report in July.
Pew Research Center also reported in the survey that the anti-immigrant rhetoric of right-wing parties across Europe has a prominent overtone of the refugee issue. In the late-June U.K. vote to exit the European Union, one of the major drivers that was indeed considered was the refugee issue.
However, despite all of these, she wasn’t disheartened by negative public sentiment, Geiling said.
“[For] people interested in our [organization], they know that there is not a big difference if you live with a Syrian, or with a French or Swedish person. We’re all just human beings looking for a room,” she said
(Adapted from CNBC)