Cities play a crucial role in the integration process of asylum seekers. The way we receive newcomers into our society has an impact on its future shape and prosperity.
The Utrecht Refugee Launchpad (U-RLP) offers an inclusive approach to facilitate integration from day one, involving residents and social networks within the neighbourhood. The experience of living, learning and working together creates a shared social capital between newcomers and residents to launch social change and provide new work opportunities. People draw strength, inspiration and courage from the many meaningful encounters.-Maarten van Ooijen, Deputy Mayor of Utrecht
Within Europe there has been a growing number of welcoming voluntary activities combined with sometimes openly hostile but at least concerned reactions towards the reception and integration of refugees. Especially in deprived neighbourhoods there is a risk of poor social inclusion of new migrants where residents already themselves face problems of high unemployment and lower levels of education.
The experience of living, learning and developing together will create a shared social capital between newcomers and residents. These new experiences may launch social change and will hopefully provide new opportunities in the labour market for participants.
The Utrecht Refugee Launchpad seeks to develop a new way to deal with reception facilities for refugees in neighbourhoods by introducing an inclusive approach. The project aims to create a combined learning and living environment for both refugees and the local community.
It offers the neighbourhood a vibrant and enigmatic centre with a SOCIUS community. A group of carefully selected youngsters with a strong connection to the neighbourhood and it’s improvement created trendy living quarters in the same building where the refugee shelter is located. Youngsters are of mixed levels of education, occupation, gender, age, colour and background. Their common ground is the intent to create a community with the asylum seekers within the neighbourhood. Neighbourhood members are invited to follow international entrepreneurship training or Business English classes together with the asylum seekers, followed by peer to peer coaching and introductions to local businesses.
The lessons learned in the URLP could be both used within the Netherlands or elsewhere. This way the approach ensures a future proof investment into the participants’ lives, which could be built up in Utrecht or elsewhere if the asylum request is denied or when refugees may want to rebuild their home country when the war is over. The project seeks to offer asylum seekers and neighbourhood(youth) alike an active and entrepreneurial environment. The core target group remains, of course, the refugee community. However, by mixing refugees with neighbourhood participants, potentially opposing groups are thought to bridge a gap and experience mutual support instead of growing alienation.
Total ERDF budget granted: EUR 2,778,313.32