How Berlin communities find smart solutions to provide better housing and education for refugees

The refugee crisis poses a major challenge for many municipalities in Germany: Since 2015, living space has become scarcer than ever before, and container settlements for refugees are often communicated as the only option. Meanwhile, refugees will also be integrated into German society. Technology and fresh ideas can help to combine living, learning and integration.

Successful integration is not only about getting to know the language and traditions, it is also about fostering talents and preparing them for a career. Two articles in the regional newspaper Basler Zeitung and the Indian news website Firstpost show new ideas for the living and learning of refugees.

Tiny houses with ten square meters of floor space

The article in the Basler Zeitung presents a project by a Berlin collective of architects, designers and refugees. The aim of the project is to build small houses with a maximum of ten square meters of floor space. The project, called Tinyhouse University, was founded by the Berlin architect and designer Van Bo Le-Mentzel. As the article in the Basler Zeitung shows, Le-Mentzel’s project is a great challenge. According to Le-Mentzel, other forms of housing are needed for a new society. As le-Mentzel says in the newspaper article, minorities should not be excluded and living space should not be awarded according to salary.

A sample project, that has emerged from Tinyhouse University, is called “35 cubic meters of homeland”. It is a silver-coated box whose interior reveals many functions: the bed and table can be opened from the floor. Shower, kitchenette and sink are located behind double walls. On the website https://35kubikheimat.com/, 360-degree views and sample images of the experiment are available.

Educational program for refugees with IT expertise

Another project is presented in the article by  the Indian newspaper Firstpost. There, it is not about living, but learning. The article tells the story of the ReDI School of Integration, founded in 2015 in Berlin. In the ReDI School, Fugitives with IT expertise have the opportunity to prepare themselves for starting a career in Germany and build up a network. The basic idea of the non-profit project is to develop a programme from which society, companies and refugees will benefit in the long term. The first classes of the ReDI School started with 40 students – by now there are already 135. Most of them from Syria, but also from Afghanistan, Eritrea or Iraq. A course usually lasts three months. After successful completion of the course, each graduate receives a certificate.

According to founder Anne Riechert, many other cities want to adapt the concept. In the Firstpost article, she describes which requirements must be met in the cities:

“’There are a lot of cities that want us to start schools but it important we find the right financial partner. For example, municipalities which see us as an integration tool or companies which are looking for talent and are considering investing in the refugee community’”.

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