German couple starts website to match asylum seekers with potential housemates

Refugees Welcome matches shared households with refugees and asylum seekers who have fled to their city

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The Independent Online

A German couple have started a website to match refugees with roommates in Germany and Austria to create a “more human culture of welcoming refugees”.

Marieke Geiling, 28, and her boyfriend Jonas Kakoschke, 31, launched Refugees Welcome to match refugees and asylum seekers with shared flats or other “normal” housing situations so that migrants would not have to live in mass accommodation.

After a shared flat or house signs up to the website, available in English and German, they will then be connected to a refugee organisation who will put them in touch with a person who has fled to their city.

Once a flatmate has been placed, Refugees Welcome with then help with financing rent costs to cover their stay.

“We are convinced that refugees should not be stigmatized and excluded by being housed in mass accommodations,” Refugees Welcome states on its homepage.

“Instead, we should offer them a warm welcome.”

They are currently processing more than 400 applications, reports NPR.

Geiling and Kakoschke were the first to open up their flat for the cause, welcoming a 39-year-old asylum seeker from Mali last December.

As Geiling is teaching a course in Cairo for most of this year they opened her room up to the asylum seeker, who is waiting for a work permit to be granted, and finance his room through donations to cover his share of rent and utilities.

In 2014 Germany received around 200,000 asylum applications, up from 127,000 in 2013. Many of the migrants are from Muslim countries, fleeing conflicts such as Syria.

The increasing number is putting a strain on refugee resources in the country, with many refugees staying in the mass accommodation Refugees Welcome describes such as old schools and army barracks.

German authorities in the western town of Schwerte were criticised earlier this year for suggesting that 21 asylum seekers be housed in barracks at Buchenwald, a Nazi concentration camp. 

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