A Role Model for Europe: IN-Touch Refugee Project

International recognition for a refugee project at the University of Bremen called In Touch: This exceptional project has been listed as an example of good practice on the web pages of the European Commission. The Bremen project is “a role model for other institutions”. The Commission now intends to beat the drum all over Europe and publicize this shining example of solidarity with refugees.

Opening an important door to integration

In summer semester 2014 the University of Bremen began enrolling refugees with academic backgrounds as special auditors in its degree courses. The idea is to give refugees an opportunity to keep up-to-date in their subjects. Seventy-six people registered for In-Touch courses in the first year, with twenty of them having already received certificates of attendance. “We are expecting more very soon”, says project coordinator Jens Kemper from the University of Bremen’s International Office. “It’s no easy matter for these people to take up regular studies once more – many of them are suffering from post-traumatic stress symptoms, and others live in uncertainty about their loved ones”, he says. For those who come to the University, IN Touch has a sort of bridging function for starting a new life in Germany. “Our University has opened an important door to integration. It’s good to know that the idea might now catch on elsewhere in Europe.”

Project sends strong signal

More and more universities in Germany are following the Bremen IN-TOUCH example and starting up similar projects, and the University is handling lots of inquiries for information on the concept. What’s so special about the pilot project is that the enrolled refugees are able to take part in lectures and seminars from the outset. “People who have had to flee their country need more than simply something to eat and a roof over their heads; they also deserve respect and food for the mind”, says the University of Bremen’s Vice Rectress for International Affairs and Diversity, Professor Yasemin Karakaşoğlu. The project is a clear win-win situation for everyone concerned. “The In-Touch students bring in their expertise and are able to advance their studies. In addition to this, they are a potential source of future students and perhaps even coworkers. IN-Touch is a vivid example of social engagement, the University’s commitment to diversity, and its role in Bremen and our globalized world”, says Karakaşoğlu.

European website provides a forum for practitioners

The European Website for Integration (EWSI) is a special forum for practitioners involved in affairs surrounding integration that addresses both governmental agencies as well as NGOs. Visitors to the website can inform themselves about many examples of good practice that are clearly explained and easy to follow up on. The website is a central point of contact for people involved in integration processes. It is the virtual counterpart of the European Integration Forum.

Other projects at the University of Bremen

The In-Touch project is just one example of the kind of help the University of Bremen offers the refugees coming to Bremen. For instance, in June 2015 the University began providing emergency tent accommodation on the campus grounds. There has been a wave of solidarity on the part of many members of the University who are doing what they can to ease the newcomers’ dire situation, and the University management has set up a special working group to coordinate activities. A large number of students have already joined the “Refugees Welcome” initiative to provide active on-the-spot support (also on Facebook – in German only). You will find news concerning the type of help still needed and information on how to support the tent residents on the University campus on the University website.

Website IN Touch

If you would like to have more information on this topic, you are welcome to contact:

University of Bremen
International Office
Jens Kemper
Phone: 0421 218 60365
e-mail: jkemperprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

Engagieren sich für das Projekt IN-Touch: Youssef Fakie (li.), Moussa Dieng und die Konrektorin Yasemin Karakaşoğlu. (Foto: Harald Rehling / Uni Bremen)