What precisely is behind CampusAsyl?
“… People who simply want to help”
Nine o’clock in the morning at Regensburg University. Not something that would have happed when I was still an undergraduate (and the free choice of parking slots also leads me to suspect that this is probably true of today’s students as well), but today there’s a special reason for my early-morning visit to the campus. I have an appointment with Lisa-Marie Singer. The 26-year-old is a member of CampusAsyl’s Executive Committee, and is dedicated to helping refugees. Because CampusAsyl is also being supported by Krones’ donation and sponsoring programme, I wanted to learn more about the initiative Lisa-Marie Singer patiently answered all my questions – and fortunately didn’t mind that I knew far too little about the situation Regensburg’s asylum-seekers.
Ms Singer, what is the goal of CampusAsyl?
Basically, we have two aims: firstly, we want to support refugees and asylum-seekers in Regensburg with immediate action, such as a clothing store or German courses. Secondly (and this is by far the more important aspect for us), we comprehend our role as an integrative project. We aim to provide these people with long-term support, to help them develop their talents, and to help them find a place in our society.
How do you achieve this?
Through a variety of projects that we organise. A mentoring project, for example, which brings young refugees and students together to help them improve their language skills sufficiently to enable them to study here. For mutual intercultural feedback, we have set up a cooking group. There are helpers who endeavour to accommodate refugees in flat-sharing communities. And then we also have various sport and music groups.
How did all this actually get started?
At the end of 2014, CampusAsyl was formed from two progenitors: der Catholic Student Group (KHG) und the “German as a Foreign Language“ faculty. At first, this was all a loose association of people who simply wanted to help. At first in the shape of language courses organised in the Regensburg reception facility for refugees. It was quickly realised that the people will only come to the courses if they’re sure that their children are being well looked after in the meantime. So the next step was to provide child care. Over the course of time, more and more helpers joined us, who in their turn contributed ideas of their own. So one project succeeded another. To enable us to work more effectively and also to accept donations, last November we finally set up a charitable non-profit organisation called Verein CampusAsyl e. V.
Who decides which projects get to be implemented, and which ones don’t?
The helpers themselves – right from the start, we’ve attached great importance to ensuring flattened hierarchies at CampusAsyl and offering maximised flexibility. We don’t dictate to people what they’re expected to contribute, rather we ask them: “What can you do and when do you have time?” Voluntary work has to be fun as well, otherwise people won’t stick at it. We just make sure we’re working efficiently and not putting any parallel structures in place. If there’s already a project up and running for a particular issue – even if it’s at another organisation –, then we don’t start up a second one.
Where can the refugees encounter CampusAsyl?
Directly on the spot. We’re represented in almost all regional institutions – meaning both in he emergency accommodation and in the reception facilities, as well as in some communal accommodation.
What exactly is the difference between the two?
When the people arrive at the German border, they are registered, and in a first step distributed among the reception facilities in the cities and municipalities, where they are provided with the bare necessities: meaning a bed, three meals a day, medical care and clothing. After that, the refugees have to submit their application for asylum. If this is rejected, they are meanwhile quite quickly sent to one of the repatriation camps. If they receive a provisional residence permit, they move to a communal accommodation facility. But there the situation for the individual is not necessarily better.
Why is that?
In contrast to the reception facilities, in the communal accommodation facilities there’s often nor longer any on-the-spot support – the asylum-seekers now have to stand more or less on their own feet. Depending on the facility concerned, there are 20 to 150 persons from different cultures living together who are looking after themselves in a strange country and having to make ends meet. That’s where even asylum-seekers who speak good German and possess high educational qualifications come up against their limitations. And for those who in the reception facilities have received no assistance apart from emergency support, things are almost impossible. Thank God, though, there are volunteers here as well, organised in helper groups, and performing valuable work in supporting asylum-seekers.
That means there are asylum-seekers who fall through the social safety net entirely?
Yes, unfortunately. In the communal accommodation facilities, we have people who’ve been stuck here for seven years without anything having been done in terms of integration. I see these as the really tragic cases, which make it clear that our system us simply not operating effectively enough. A paradoxical situation. Because the people in these communal accommodation facilities are, after all, those who have asylum-seeker status and who are really allowed to stay here. And it’s precisely here that almost nothing’s being done!
Your work sounds as if it’s sometimes frustrating. Where do you get all your motivation from?
From the cases where we can really help. There, are of course, time and again some frustrating moments, but the bottom line is that our work is incredibly enriching: it’s great to see the energy with which many of the asylum-seekers arrive here, how keen they are to learn, and what substantial progress they make.
What in your view has to change in order to improve the situation?
For integration to work properly, we need a rethink in many areas, such as access to degree courses, internships or vocational training. On the whole, however, it’s great to see all that’s happening and the huge commitment displayed by the volunteer helpers – not only at CampusAsyl, but also in other organisations, such as Caritas, with whim we work closely together.
Is CampusAsyl restricted to students, or can anybody get involved?
Everybody is most definitely welcome to join us! The only important thing is that they want to help, and enjoy encountering different people. You can find information on all our projects and details of the contact persons involved on our website campus-asyl.de.