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International bridge-builders: diaspora organisations in Germany

Germany is home to 16 million people with an immigrant background. Many of these people are involved in diaspora organisations, helping to promote integration in Germany and supporting projects in their countries of origin. A particularly interesting example of a successful project is the ‘Mayadin Al-Tahrir’ society in Cairo.

In 2012, 20 percent of the German population had an immigrant background, which makes about 16 million people. Many of them maintain close ties to the countries they or their parents came from, and try to work from Germany on their behalf. They come together in so-called diaspora organisations in which they can exchange ideas with like-minded people and collectively launch initiatives. These often focus either on their own integration in Germany, or on projects in the members’ countries of origin. Of course, other focal areas also exist for the activities of migrant organisations, including for instance religious affiliation and political engagement.

Diaspora organisations as bridges between Germany and the homeland

Diaspora organisations in Germany perform valuable educational work, and they are valuable contact points and sources of information for anybody involved with the respective countries of origin. Their knowledge and experience can prove helpful in areas such as science, research and training, and even for the private business sector. At the same time, many diaspora organisations support specific projects in their countries of origin. Above all in the areas of education and health, countless initiatives benefit from their contacts with, and the know-how of migrant organisations.

CIM: Support for diaspora organisations

The Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM) offers many different services to support migrant organisations. These range from advice on applications and projects, to financial assistance and the placement of trained experts and interns. You can find out more about these services on the CIM website.

A good example of commitment: Mayadin Al Tahrir

A cultural centre was recently opened in the El Matariya district of Cairo, including a library and a meeting place for children and youth. The Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM) provided support for the centre. Drawing on traditional and ecologically sound building methods, a room was erected on the roof of an existing house, in which the children and young people can meet and pursue their cultural interests. The special thing here is that the young Egyptians worked together with architecture students from Germany, France and Egypt, contributing themselves to the design of their cultural centre. The meeting place on the roof opened in the middle of April 2014. Further rooms and activities are now being planned.

Matariya - Cultural Center for young Egyptians from Hannah El-Hitami on Vimeo.

The migrants organisation ‘Mayadin Al Tahrir’ is the lead partner in this project. The society set itself the objective of ‘opening spaces for people in which they can act for themselves and improve their life prospects for the long term.’ Being a non-profit organisation, like most diaspora organisations, it depends entirely on the voluntary commitments of its members and staff. That their efforts are worthwhile can be seen in this interesting short film about the Matariya project, produced by the volunteer Hannah El-Hitami.

Author: Elena Krüskemper

September 2014

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