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The lively student city of Utrecht in the Netherlands takes great pride in offering its inhabitants a sustainable and healthy living environment. They are also experts in welcoming new people, believing that a good start goes a long way towards building a better future for all.
In accordance with this philosophy, Utrecht offers refugees and asylum-seekers the means to start rebuilding their lives immediately – even before they have a residence permit. A special “Refugee Launch Pad” created with EU funding helps newcomers integrate quickly into Dutch society while also giving them the tools to make it anywhere.
In this innovative approach, refugees and asylum seekers are housed in the middle of a city neighbourhood among young Dutch people.
Organised activities such as language cafés, playing sports or eating together offer the new arrivals a chance to mix with locals and start building social and professional networks.
Yldau and Fabian talked to Amir and Kimiya, refugees who live in the complex – and who are both profiting from what is on offer at Plan Einstein, located right next to the living quarters: language classes, workshops and entrepreneurship courses which, by the way, are also open to locals. Personalised coaching to help finding a job or a place in higher education is also available.
Our travellers also had a chat with Dutch student Olivier who lives in a flat in the complex. All that is expected of him is “being a nice neighbour”. When Yldau mentioned the widespread resentment against refugees in her country, Olivier commented that it “is always easy to judge without knowing what is really going on. But people should invest time to find out what is happening here. Then you’re free to judge, but don’t scream without knowing what is going on.”
That’s precisely what Fabian and Yldau did. After their visit to the project there were of the opinion that this should the way in every country.
You can follow Plan Einstein on Facebook and Twitter. The project and its people have also been subject to recent reports and interviews by the European TV channel Euronews: check them out here and here.