In Utrecht, there has been an increased focus on the assimilation of migrants into local communities. The Utrecht Refugee Launchpad provides the opportunity for those who may be finding it difficult to adapt to the new culture.
Assimilation is particularly problematic for refugees and asylum seekers, who come to the country in order to escape dire situations (the Syrian Civil War being a prominent example) as they often aren’t able to speak the native language of the country they’ve gone to, let alone understand the culture.
One way of making sure that refugees become accustomed to the country they’ve joined, is by encouraging them to get involved with local community projects. This gives them influence over their new environment and, in turn, aims to help them with settling down in their new home.
The initiative aims to create a community with the asylum seekers – working together creates a greater bond between people. Members of the neighbourhood do this by hosting international business classes, English lessons, and even entrepreneurship training with the migrants. This not only becomes a space to learn, but also helps to bridge the gap between locals and refugees. Creating social capital, through shared experiences, counters issues of alienation. Overall, they hope that a better understanding of others leads to a stronger community.
On top of this, the skills gained from the classes help the refugees build their own future on an individual level. If they want to return to their country, once it is safe to do so, they have some of the skills necessary to invest, improve infrastructure and rebuild in other ways.
Empowerment through education serves the community today whilst also being an investment into the individual’s future.
Much like in Utrecht, people from Coventry are helping those escaping areas of conflict. The aim is for migrants and refugees of different backgrounds to become fully integrated into the local society through communal activities.
With the intake of refugees being part of a broader government plan, the city council runs the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, which helps over 4,000 people each year. They carry out services from employment advice, to English classes.
What is of particular interest is the mental health service; around 1,700 hours of therapy has been provided to the migrants over the past year. This is of significance because, by carrying out this service, the city acknowledges the psychological issues or trauma of these families.
The mental support of adapting to challenging circumstances is just as valuable as practical assistance.
It is through such services, that the community seeks to empower migrants in the hopes that they can obtain their autonomy.
The pandemic has brought extra complications but they’ve been able to adapt by holding online workshops; that way, they can still work towards their goal of integration amidst tough circumstances.
The inclusive nature of these projects can also be of real value for organisations such as the Bristol Pound. Bristol, being a melting pot of different cultures, is a great place to bridge any sense of disconnect between migrants and other locals through community work.