Summary: Open-air language class given to asylum seekers
Where: Paris, France
Initiated by: BAMM
If you pass the Platz de la Bataille de Stalingrad at 6 p.m. each day you will see a free open-air French class given to dozens of asylum seekers (and anyone else interested). Learners can join one of two groups: one for beginners and another for more advanced French speakers. According to Bamm, an NGO that runs the classes in a number of locations throughout Paris, the objective of the classes is to “accompany people to linguistic autonomy alongside the learning of cultural norms needed for daily life”. By appropriating the flights of stairs edging the square, the classes recreate the structure of the seminar room, with the teachers sat at the bottom and the students gathering above them. These open-air public classes not only help asylum seekers to get on with the French language, but also serve as social occasions on which to meet up, make new friends and exchange information.
Summary: Riverside food bar and cultural venue run by refugees
Where: Warsaw, Poland
Collaborators: Local activists
The ‘Kitchen from a Conflict Zone’ is not just a common truck food bar. Run by refugees, it is an open-sky restaurant and informal outdoor eating venue with a convenient sitting space located adjacent to the riverbanks and a busy pedestrian promenade, which is near to sandy beaches and volleyball courts.
Jarmiła Rybicka, one of the founders, says that the project aims to enable refugees not only to be productive, but also to gain confidence in going out and being present in the public spaces of the city. Jarmiła helps each of the workers to obtain the right work permit, and supports them in dealing with local administrative processes. Currently, Jarmiła’s team consists of 11 refugees, who either cook in the kitchen or contribute to the project in other ways, drawing on their own talents and skills. The team is mixed and represents different backgrounds, currently including women from Chechenia, Nepal, Balorus, Ukraine and Congo and men from Algeria and Egypt.
Every day, the ‘Kitchen from a Conflict Zone’ enables spontaneous encounters between refugees and Warsovians, offering delicious meals and snacks from the home countries of the kitchen’s cooks. Thanks to the flexible table and plant arrangements, it offers a welcoming, open aspect as well as a sense of intimacy. For visitors to the Warsaw riverbanks, the kitchen serves as an invitation to explore the richness of the heritage that newcomers bring to Poland, taste the food, and enjoy a conversation. In the current Polish political environment, comprising hostility towards refugees and asylum seekers, this grassroots initiative offers a small-scale possibility of inclusion, integration and welcome.
Summary: Weekly football sessions for asylum seekers, refugees and local youth
Where: Sheffield, UK
Collaborators: FURD, U-Mix Centre, Sheffield
Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) hosts weekly football sessions at the U-Mix Centre in Sheffield for asylum seekers and refugees, and local youth more broadly, to promote social inclusion and understanding between different communities. FURD believes that “football, as the world’s most popular sport, can help break down barriers created by ignorance or prejudice, and bring together people from different backgrounds to play, watch and enjoy the game”.
Wednesday U-Mix sessions gather a diverse mixture of users: younger and older experienced players and beginners (though, sadly, efforts to attract women haven’t worked out yet). Around 15 people usually turn up and join in. According to one of the regular members of the group, Wednesday sessions are a great way for newcomers to establish a network of friends in Sheffield and learn about other events and activities going on in the city. Football exercises allow refugees and asylum seekers to undertake a structured physical activity outdoors — irrespective of the weather. Playing football provides a helpful escape from everyday worries. After a game, all participants are welcome to lunch — a friendly way to continue informal discussions, about football and beyond, and develop new friendships and connections.
Summary: A dedicated orientation programme for newly arrived Syrian refugees
Where: London, UK
Collaborators: Refugee Action and local partners
Orientation takes place during the arrivals week and is carried out after staff and volunteers at Refugee Action have provided refugees with the essentials (tenancy, housing benefits, job-seeking appointments, GP registration, Home Office, basic utilities). Firstly, local tours are given. These involve walking with newcomers around their immediate area and showing them local shops, markets, supermarkets, discount stores, local parks, mosques/churches, post offices, payment points (to collect benefits before a bank account has been set up), and transport links.
James Peto from Refugee Action feels that parks are important but sometimes difficult to find; therefore, he makes a point of including these in the tours. On the first trip, there is usually an element of teaching newcomers to London about transport systems, currency, money saving, safeguarding, and road safety. James explains: “We want this to be a friendly experience and try to take them to at least some places that speak Arabic and may seem more familiar to them so they are encouraged to explore by themselves as opposed to feeling daunted by the foreign environment.”
The second orientation is for the wider area. In London, volunteers and staff at Refugee Action take clients to Shepherd’s Bush Market, where there are several Syrian shops and restaurants. Specific itineraries will reflect discussion between Refugee Action staff members and the refugees who participate in the projects.