As European governments continue to grapple with the mass influx of Syrian asylum seekers, citizens across the continent are starting to take matters into their own hands to alleviate the crisis.
Inspired by Airbnb’s flat-sharing model, a Berlin-based group has launched a website that matches refugees with citizens willing to accommodate them in their homes across Germany. Refugees Welcome has so far helped people fleeing from Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria, and plans to extend its service to other countries in Europe. Offers have flooded in from students who share flats, married couples, single mothers, and even retirees.
“We are overwhelmed by people’s readiness to help,” the group said earlier this week. “We are now receiving inquiries from different countries within Europe such as Greece, Portugal and Scotland, but also from Australia and the US.
Users can register their space on the site by providing some basic information, after which they’ll be put in touch with a person who has fled to their city though a refugee organization. As the details of their move-in are sorted, Refugees Welcome will help find ways to finance the rent from sources including job centres, social welfare payments, or micro-donations to the site.
On top of housing a person in need, the service encourages a cultural exchange that allows hosts to assist in helping refugees learn the language and adjust to their new environment. State-sponsored mass accommodation often houses refugees beyond city limits, which prevents them from integrating with society.
Over 100 migrants have so far been matched with rooms across the country, which is expected to receive up to 800,000 asylum seekers this year.