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The CrossCulture Programme “Refugees and Migration” improves work with refugees across borders

The inflow of refugees to Germany has slowed. But that doesn’t mean that there are no refugees anymore; on the contrary, people are still fleeing from Syria. Some of those who are committed to looking after refugees have taken part in the CrossCulture Programme (CCP) “Refugees and Migration”.

The CrossCulture Programme (CCP) organised by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) was supplemented this year by the “Refugees and Migration” dimension. A total of 13 young people from Islamic countries and from Germany were given the opportunity to gain an insight into another country and refugee work there. The one-week “CCP Refugees and Migration” forum held at the start of November encouraged exchange with other scholarship holders for participants to benefit from each other’s experience.

One Tuesday morning at the start of November at Sharehaus Refugio in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. On the first floor of the building, you can hear paper rustling, and everybody is concentrating hard on their work. Thirteen young people are writing and drawing posters, cutting and pasting – many of them are kneeling on the floor, some have taken their shoes off. They have been given the task of presenting the organisation they work for in their home country and the organisation that they are or have been working for in their host country. They have one hour to get their presentations ready.

They are committed to helping refugees either professionally or as volunteers and are scholarship holders of the “CCP Refugees and Migration” organised for the first time this year as part of the CrossCulture Programme. Programme participants receive a scholarship for a period of up to two months. CCP scholarship holders from Germany receive an internship placement in one of the participating countries, while scholarship holders from abroad come to Germany. This year, participants come from Germany as well as from Morocco, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

“CCP Refugees and Migration welcomes tandem partnerships,” says Anja Scholz, who heads the programme. “One organisation sends their employee to another organisation, while at the same time welcoming an employee from the other organisation as a guest.”

One example of such a tandem partnership are Florian Börner from Berlin Stadtmission’s Mertensstrasse refugee centre and Ahmed Al-Shaikhli, who works for Almortaqa Foundation for Development in Iraq. Both of them flew to Berlin from Iraq just before the forum. Florian Börner has already finished his work for Almortaqa, while Al-Shaikhli started work at Mertensstrasse refugee centre mid-November. “I am particularly interested to see how Germany is dealing with the large number of refugees,” says Ahmed Al-Shaikhli in a very clear, firm voice about his expectations regarding his stay in Germany.

Interview with Ahmed Al-Shaikhli, participant of the CrossCulture Programme (CCP) “Refugees and Migration”

Work at the refugee camp: Each day is a struggle for the bare essentials

The presentations are finished and have been pinned up on the board. Now participants have the opportunity to give the others an insight into their work at their home and host organisations. The facilitators call that a “knowledge café”.

Mona Abdelbaqi wears a white headscarf, jeans and a black t-shirt. She is a civil engineer from Jordan. To date, Jordan has taken in about two million Syrian refugees. The 30-year-old works there for a Japanese aid organisation at the Zaatari camp, the largest refugee camp in the Middle East for Syrian refugees with a population of 80,000 people. “The trouble is that we don’t have enough resources to go round,” she says in her presentation. “Even water is in short supply.”

Maher Abdaljaleel also works in a camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan. “It is practically impossible to plan ahead,” he says. “I never know how my week or even my day is going to turn out.” Theoretically, he is one of several people responsible for education offers in the camp. “However I might have to drive someone to hospital or deal with other issues that take priority,” Maher Abdaljaleel describes his work at the knowledge café.

Interview with Maher Abdaljaleel, participant of the CrossCulture Programme (CCP) “Refugees and Migration”

The 13 participants of the CCP forum are very respectful in their dealings with each other. They listen to each other and choose their words carefully. They communicate in English – a foreign language for everyone. The respect shown generates a very friendly, almost relaxed atmosphere.

Sustainable solutions in refugee work

After her presentation, Mona Abdelbaqi has time to go up on to the roof terrace on the sixth floor of Sharehaus Refugio. As we walk up the stairs, she tells us what she would like to see in her future work: “I would like us to find sustainable solutions for our refugee camps in Jordan.” At present, she says, she usually has to settle for short-term solutions in the Zaatari camp. “But at least the tents have been replaced by containers in the meantime, so there is some progress,” says Mona Abdelbaqi.

As we talk, it soon becomes clear that she has a very precise idea of how the problems in this Zaatari camp could be solved: “Good infrastructure would be a considerable help in dealing with the shortage of resources. If we managed to solve the problems with a long-term strategy, this could benefit many areas, not least the environment as well.”

During her stay in Germany, Mona Abdelbaqi worked in Bremen for BORDA (Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association) from mid-October to mid-December. BORDA develops and distributes sustainable technologies in the fields of water, wastewater, energy and waste disposal. This way, for the past almost 40 years the organisation has been helping people worldwide gain access to basic infrastructure for their everyday life.

Interview with Mona Abdelbaqi, participant of the CrossCulture Programme (CCP) “Refugees and Migration”

Mona Abdelbaqi feels that she can support her host organisation with her knowledge and that both sides are benefiting from the exchange. What she likes most about “CCP Refugees and Migration” is that she can see how Germany is dealing with the refugee crisis. “That has broadened my horizon. I have come to see further aspects of the refugee crisis. We can only succeed in dealing with this challenge better if we all enter into an exchange with each other.”

Learning and benefiting from each other – even beyond the CCP forum

“We have found that the need for exchange among our participants is very high indeed,” says Anja Scholz. “We will start them off this week and hope that the scholarship holders will stay in contact and enjoy an intensive exchange – for example via our alumni network. This is also intended to make sure that the project has a long-term effect.”

The German Federal Foreign Office, which is financing the CCP, has already indicated that “Refugees and Migration” will again be a priority topic of the CrossCulture Programme next year. “We are currently still at the applications filing and examination stage,” says Anja Scholz. “We are planning to publish the call for internship applications in January or February 2017.”

For Mona Abdelbaqi it has already been worthwhile to take part in the programme. Her wish for sustainability in her refugee work is about to come true – at least partly: Her host organisation BORDA is planning to open its own office in Jordan in early 2017. Mona Abdelbaqi plans to lend her support with her specialist knowledge of the region and the local refugee work. “BORDA’s presence will do the Zaatari camp good,” she says. “And it might also be good for my career.”

Author: Verena Stiebinger

CCP Refugees and Migration supplements the CrossCulture Programme (CCP) implemented by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) in partnership with the German Federal Foreign Office and financed by the German Federal Foreign Office. It is aimed at employees of non-governmental organisations, government agencies and organisations in the field of refugee work and migration in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Germany. The programme will be expanded to include additional countries in the coming year.

The scholarship is linked with a job-related stay abroad in cooperation with a hosting organisation. ifa is responsible for the organisation and bears the cost of the programme.

Who can apply?

  • Organisations can encourage their employees to apply and/or host scholarship holders from abroad on temporary placement.
  • Organisations can inform cooperation partners abroad about the programme and encourage them to participate.
  • Individuals active professionally or as volunteers in the field refugee work or migration can apply in consultation with their organisations and/or inform their organisations about the option to host a scholarship holder.

You can also apply for the CrossCulture Programme. The programme enables internships for young professionals and volunteers between the ages of 23 and 45 from the participating countries and from Germany. International experience is gained and intercultural competence developed through work stays in another culture.

In your opinion, how important is cross-border exchange between parties active in refugee work?

December 2016

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