Tag Archives: Refugees

Tuition-Free Online degrees Offered To 500 Syrian Refugees

University of the People (UoPeople) offers tuition-free, accredited online degrees in Computer Science & Business Administration to Syrian refugees.

Free online accredited online degrees for Syrian Refugees
Generously donated in-part by the Fondation Hoffmann, this scholarship is available to all students who identify as a refugee or asylum seeker from Syria only.

The special scholarship will cover the costs of examination fees for up to 10 exams. Upon completion of the funds awarded, students may apply for another scholarship, and thus potentially cover the entire cost of a 2-year Associate or 4-year Bachelor’s degree.

Students only need to prove they have a qualified level of English, completed high school and have access to computers with internet. 

A special policy, approved by the DEAC (University’s US accrediting agency), has been established in order to admit refugees and asylum seekers even if official transcripts and documents of previous degrees cannot be obtained.

How to register for the online degree
To apply for the scholarship, refugee students from Syria must simply start their online application. The online application is divided in four steps.

Before you complete Step 4, you will receive an email from your personal Admissions Advisor.

You will need to reply to him/her and mention that you are a refugee from Syria and you are interested in the scholarship. They will be happy to help you from there onwards.

UoPeople is an accredited online university. Refugee students in camps, moving to a new country or returning home will be able to pursue higher education wherever they are.

EU Asylum Seeker Policies, Country by Country

In the past weeks and months, some EU countries have decided to change the way they accept and process asylum seekers’ applications depending on the person’s nationality and how they reached their destination country. A lot of contradictory information is being shared on social media.

Migreat, the trusted platform for information on immigration, will list (and keep updated) the actual asylum policies for most EU countries and highlight the ones with fair policies towards refugees (as well as pointing out the countries with rules that are not ideal).

We will be updating this article every month [Last update: 25th November 2015]

Germany
Germany has re-implemented checks at its border and is now sending back asylum seekers to the first EU country where they were registered. This policy went into affect on October 21st.

During the first week of November, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière declared that refugees arriving on the German border will be deported back to the first European Union country they entered. It means that Germany is now treating asylum seekers’ applications according to the Dublin Agreement. It is a reversal of the policies that were in place beginning at the end of August, 2015.

In addition, refugees from Syria are not being provided protection in accordance with the Geneva Conventions on refugees. The vast majority of Syrian refugees, who traveled through Turkey or other allegedly “safe countries of origin” during their journey, will only receive subsidiary protection. They will receive the right to reside for just one year rather than three years, and they cannot bring their family members to Germany.

The German government is striving to implement this closure, even though an interior ministry spokesman stated that there would be “no turning back at the borders,” only regulated deportations.

Sweden
Sweden has re-introduced border control checks too. Swedish police are now monitoring trains and ferries arriving from mainland Europe and stopping anyone without valid travel documents.

Anyone seeking to apply for asylum will not be turned back. This measure is implemented to create a more orderly process of arrival for refugees. The intention is to deter those hoping to cross Sweden to reach other Scandinavian countries.

Read more on Swedish reformed asylum seeking process for Syrians – dated: September, 2015.

France
France has re-introduced border control checks as a result of the Paris Terrorist Attacks of November 13th. The policy of welcoming refugees will not be changed and applicants for refugee status in France are expected to undergo tight security checks.

France will respect its commitment to helping 30,000 asylum seekers over the next several years.

Read more on France recent reform of Asylum Law and Refugee Immigration System.

Austria
Austria plans to construct barriers along its border with Slovenia to control the flow of refugees more effectively rather than stop everyone entering the country.

Austria wants to be able to carry out controls on the movement of people and it will not be a razor-wire barrier like the one in Hungary.

Hungary & Slovenia
These countries have begun building a border fence aimed at stopping refugees from both entering and using their countries to transit to more western countries in the EU.

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At Migreat, we regret that only Greece, Italy and Hungary are legally being held responsible for the vast majority of migrants due to the refugee seekers first being registered in those countries. Here the five things you can do to help refugees.

Keep up to date with the European Union’s Refugee crisis on Migreat blog by following us.

Can Tech help refugees? Take-Aways of #Techfugees conference and Hackathon

On October 1st and 2nd, leaders in the Tech Community gathered in London to brainstorm about what mobile and web technologies could be created that could help refugees find new homes and begin their new lives in Europe. Migreat was there, to present a prototype of an immigration assistant aimed at refugees and to participate in the effort. Here’s a recap of the intense two days and some of the main ideas that came out of the event.

A Spontaneous Reaction from the Tech Community
The event was organised in just two weeks time via a Facebook group led by Mike Butcher and supported by many other local industry representatives like Nesta,  London Tech Advocates, Skills MattersPavla Kopecna and the Exponential Network who offered space, sponsorship and support during the event.

Over two days, a group of 300 software developers, tech enthusiasts, NGOs and institutions like the UNHCR discussed, demonstrated and started building  technologies that have the potential to do things like save lives at sea and help refugees navigate the EU geography and immigration systems.

Here is the full agenda and live-stream of the presentation and participants

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Migreat presented and demo’d its immigration wizard and community platform that serves over two million migrants in Europe today.

We were impressed by What3words mapping technology, inspired by Marieme Jamme speaking as a refugee herself (and who is now a successful entrepreneur) and left energized by the UNHCR’s visionary talk.

The first day demonstrated how complex the crisis is and moved Ed Saperia to write on the hackpad the day after “A lot of people are building a lot of things all across the world, much of which is duplicated or never makes it to deployment. So (..) have  a look at other things people are doing” before building something yourself, Ed advised.

Techfugee Hackathon
Now hacking!

At the hack, the atmosphere was definitely more collaborative than competitive. Teams of volunteer software developers were split amongst small tables and given a common online hackpad with information from the previous day. Some people roamed the room to exchange information on what each table’s project was on and to connect similar/complimentary projects.

Migreat’s Experience
We met a group building an online platform to connect refugee families to local UK host families – and it made us want to share our experience developed while building local online communities with Migreat.

We discussed with the Hack Humanity group the possibility of building an algorithm of probability of refugee applications approval.

Refugee Immigration Wizard App

The event brought food for thoughts for Migreat team who proudly presented an immigration wizard for refugees at the end of the night (above).

Outcome & the future of Techfugees
Serving as a platform to connect concerned individuals and organisations, the event successfully showed  how the UK tech community can collaborate and work towards solutions to what looks to be one of EU’s most pressing issues.

Techfugees hackathon group picture

The event enabled the creation of a crowd-sourced map of organisations, and connections between them. The hackpad is still being updated with new events everyday since the event earlier this month and has started an online exchange of information between people building similar projects at the European level.

One of the essential goal of the Techfugees, says Mike Butcher is to build a “Minimum Viable Product” which in the language of the tech community means to see working prototypes and solutions emerging in the next months. For our part, Migreat is looking forward to launching our refugee immigration wizard 🙂

TechFugees Conference Line-up

Here is the full agenda and video of the Techfugees Conference of October 1st 2015.

03:24 – Mike Butcher – Welcome – Techfugees @TechFugees
10:21 – Sadaf Ahmed – Refugees in Calais – Musafir Collective @Musafir_Kitchen
25:50 – Adam Rodriques – Mapping Smuggling Networks – Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime – @darthsunglasses
44:30Sonia Ben Ali – The Urban Refugee experience – @UrbanRefugees
1:01:33 – Andrej Mahecic – UNHCR – @UNHCRUK
1:24:19 – Klaus Bravenboer – Hack Humanity – @HackHumanityCo


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1:58:00 – Peter Conlon – Global Donation widget – ammado – @ammado
2:15:36 – Richard Sargeant – Home Office – @richardsargeant 2:20:35 – Sholi Loewenthal – My Refuge – @sholiloewenthal
2:32:00 – Giles Rhy Jones – 3 words to address the crisis – What3Words – @What3Words
2:43:55Marieme Jamme – The Refugee Experience – Africa Gathering – @AfricaGathering

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4:01:55 – Josh – Childrens English language learning app Little Bridge – @Little_Bridge
4:04:05 – Anne Kjaer Riechart – Refugees On Rails – @RefugeesOnRails
4:16:05 -Funding Tech for Good Projects

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Gary Stewart @garystew – Moderating panel
Gi Fernando – Founders for Good – @gifernando
Kieron Kirkland – CAST – @kieronkirkland
Paul Miller – Bethnal Green Ventures – @rellimluap
Damian Peachey – BBVA – damian.peachey @ bbva.com
Debu Parkayastha – Mercy Corps – @MercyCorps_UK
Sadaf Ahmed – Musafir Collective – @Musafir_Kitchen
4:45:00 – Marianne Bouchart – Data Journalism & The Refugee Crisis – Hei-Da – @Maid_Marianne

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5:27:55 – Paula Schwarz – Startup Boat – @startup_boat
5:33:30 – Katharina Dermuhl – Migration Hub
5:40:20Tara Mikheal – Migreat@taramikhael
5:46:30 – panel moderator Rohan Silva – Second Home – @Rohan_Silva Demos
6:08:40 – Franziska Becka – Hashtag Charity – @franziskabecker 6:12:05 – Frank Khan Sullivan – Project Temp Home – @fksullivan 6:15:50 Pranay Manocha – Refugee Maps – @RefugeeMaps 6:19:25 – Dr Asif Qasim MA PhD FRCP – MedShr – @MedShrOnline 6:22:40 – Helen Campbell / Emerson Tan – NetHope – @NetHope_org
6:29:00 – Raphael Mazet – CliqStart – @Cliq_Start

6:32:35 – Cristoffer Harlos – Migreat – @Migreat
6:36:15 – Mans Gardfeldt – Orphan Gift – @gardfeldt (non attendance) Murtada Alsaif – Written Medicine – @WrittenMedicine
6:41:35Bernhard Niesner – Busuu – @bernardooo
6:45:40 – Sarah Raslan – Aktashif – @sarahrazzel
6:51:30 – John Handcock – British Red Cross – @uxjonh
6:52:40 – Shelley Taylor – Refugee Aid App – bit.ly/refaid
6:55:20 – Mike Butcher – Techfugees Next Steps – @Techfugees

Some good blog post that summarise the day talks:
TechFugees Rally to Tackle European Refugee Crisis by RefMe
We are techies. We are here to help by Nesta
Techfugees in London by Andy Mayer
Techfugees by Lynn

Read our blog post about the event – and for more information visit techfugees’ website

Applying for Refugee Status in France: Quick Review of Changes to Immigration Laws and Processes

France recently passed a reform to its immigration law for refugees & asylum seekers. This change will have significant impact on processing times for asylum seeker applications and the rights of asylum seekers in the application process.

Migreat asked Lou-Salomé Sorlin, French immigration expert on asylum cases to tell us more about the current process and what the new rules mean for asylum seekers currently in France or interested to look for asylum in France.

The Asylum Process in France
[MG] What is the process by which an immigrant can start applying for French refugee status?
[LSS] It depends on where you apply from.

[MG] How about applying from outside France?
[LSS] People can apply for a long term visa on the grounds that they are looking for asylum in France (visa de long séjour délivré au titre de l’Asile) at a French embassy outside of France. Even though most applications are rejected, it is an option to consider if someone has a strong case to prove (official documents, solid proof that they have suffered (or fear) persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, belonging to a group or political opinion). [If denied] people can contest the refusal of the visa at the Tribunal Administratif Nantes.

[MG] How about applying from within France?
[LSS] If already in France, asylum seekers must apply by visiting the Prefecture, the regional institution representing the French State in each of France’s regions, with the right documents in hand. At the Prefecture, each person will be given a form to fill out to go along with that person’s administrative documents. Additionally, the applicant’s biometric data will be taken – to verify that they have not already claimed asylum in another European country.

Start the process as soon as possible, as it takes on average one to two years to be granted refugee status in France.

[MG] Who is eligible to apply for asylum in France?
[LSS] Applying for asylum in France is a two steps process, where one has to register to the Prefecture before being granted the right to apply to asylum.

Unless the prefecture finds out that:

  • The applicant has entered Europe from another country or has already applied for asylum in another EU country (Dublin Ruling);
  • Applied for asylum in another EU country;
  • Are from a country listed as a safe country free from persecution by the CNDA;
  • Are a threat to French Government or society; and/or have major criminal record;

The prefecture will then issue a temporary authorisation to reside in France (APS) within a maximum of 15 days after the applicant’s visit, allowing them the right to reside in France for a month renewable and apply for asylum within the next 21 days.

If the prefecture refuses the right to stay in France on one of the grounds quoted above – and so refuses the right for the applicant to apply for asylum to the OFPRA, a person’s options to apply to asylum in France are restricted. If the reason for refusal is because of the application being handled by another EU country (Dublin II ruling), the applicant is not allowed to apply for asylum in France at this stage. If the transfer to the country responsible has not happened in the next six months, France becomes then responsible of the asylum seeker’s application.

Advice for asylum seekers when applying
[MG] How can a genuine refugee successfully obtain and be granted refugee status in France?
[LSS] At the prefecture, a person must make sure their application is complete, that nothing is missing. Note that people can apply without ID documents if they do not have them; documents related to how you entered France can come in many formats (flight tickets, visas, etc); finally, if the applicant does not have a proof of residence, migrant associations may be able to provide the person with one.

When the applicant receives the APS from the prefecture, they should start working on their application to OFPRA (l’Office français de protection des réfugiés et apatrides) with the help of French migrant associations and/or lawyers. Refugees should know that they can access the services of free lawyers and free support from migrant associations when at the stage of court proceedings. As much as possible make use of people with knowledge.

[MG] What’s an application look like? How can someone be successful at it?
[LSS] The asylum application must be filled out and written in French. The OFPRA form has to be filled out completely – without any gaps. Applicants must explain in details their personal situation and their family’s situation.

The applicant needs to articulate strongly the reason why he/she is fleeing his/her country and the reasons why they can’t go back – reasons that are clearly relevant to what defines a refugee: someone, owing to wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,who is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country;someone, owing to wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,who is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. It is important to know that the application information is confidential. None of the information provided in the application will ever be communicated to the country of origin.

It is strongly recommended that an applicant keep a copy of all and any documents provided with the application. All documents that support the personal and family details as well as prove the reasons why the applicant is eligible for refugee status. The more documents, if relevant, the better. Documents supporting the story that a person has suffered (or fears) persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, belonging to a certain social group or political opinion in their country of origin.

[MG] What more can you tell us about the interview with the OFPRA?
[LSS] It is very rare for an applicant to be granted asylum successfully without having to pass an interview with the OFPRA. As such, it is strongly recommended to prepare for it and if possible with people knowledgeable about the process and/or with their story. The new legislation makes it easier for an expert, lawyer or representative of a migrant organisation to assist the asylum seeker during the interview with OFPRA’s “officier de protection” – even to make it possible for an advisor to participate through a videoconference.

The interview is performed in the language the applicant prefers and that the applicant has mentioned on the application form. As such, it is important for the applicant to choose the language he/she feels most comfortable with. Again, it is important to mention that the interview is confidential.

Data on Asylum Seekers in France
Out of approximately 66,000 asylum seeker applications in 2014 in France, 16% were approved by the OPFRA – and 27% in total after appeal is made to the Cour Nationale du Droit d’Asile (CNDA).
Last January 2011, the EU court of Human rights ruled and fined Belgium and Greece for degrading and inhuman treatment of asylum seekers. Since then, many European countries like Germany, Sweden and the UK have stopped transferring asylum seekers back to Greece and other Mediterranean countries.

[MG] What are the options and rights for asylum seekers in France refused the right to apply to asylum in France on the ground that another EU country is responsible of their asylum case?
[LSS] An asylum seeker can contest the procedure of deportation to the another EU country with a lawyer if they have valid grounds to contest it. France and the asylum seeker have 6 months maximum to make a decision on the case. After 6 months, if the asylum seeker is not sent back to the other EU country, France may become responsible and the individual can proceed to an asylum seeking application in France.

[MG] The legal process can fail asylum seekers non familiar with administrative papers and procedures. Can you tell us a little more on the common administrative challenges?

[LSS] The process is long. On average it takes 16 months to be granted refugee status in France. The new legislation aims to reduce this process to 9 months maximum by 2017. The new legislation grants the right to work to asylum seekers after 9 months even if no decision has been taken on their application by the OFPRA. This said, in practice, employers are reluctant to employ asylum seekers without confirmation of their right to stay in France legally; and immigration rules are making it more difficult to recruit a foreigner on the grounds that employers should first look for local talent.

The administration often asks for documents and evidence that are difficult for asylum seekers to provide. It is expected that the applicant provide as many details as possible about the cause of their departure from their country, the circumstances around how it happened, the risks and persecutions he/she could potentially be subjected to if they were sent back to their country without any questions from the judges or administrators. The in person interview follows less the format of an interview than a presentation exercise where the applicant must convince officials who often have little knowledge or access to information on the situation or the cultural and political background of the applicant. For applicants, it is essential to gather as much information and to prepare as much possible for the interview with the help of trustworthy people.

The process requires knowledge of the administrative system. There are options to appeal that are not known by asylum seekers. It requires an expert or legal advisor to best understand and navigate what can look like an obscure system for applicants. A little knowledge can actually be worse than no knowledge at all – and lots of people say lots of confusing things. Applicants would benefit from looking for advice from migrant organisations and/or lawyer networks. Taking French language classes ahead of the interview or while waiting for the decision, makes it significantly easier to get familiar and feel comfortable with the process. Also, it helps that if after 9 months no decision has been taken, to find a job.

[MG] The statistics states that a large number of applicants are being granted refugee status after appeal to the CNDA. There is also a general perception that France is more welcoming to refugees than some other EU countries?
[LSS] Indeed, the right to asylum is stated in the French constitution – it is one principle of its Republic. The Cour Nationale du Droit d’Asile (CNDA) is the result of this commitment and guarantee of the right. It is the first court in terms of number of request and appeals per year.

When an applicant is refused the right to asylum by the OFPRA, he/she can appeal to the CNDA. This time a translator and lawyer are provided automatically. More than a quarter of appeals to the CNDA resulted in the cancellation of the decision to refuse asylum by the OFPRA.

Also, for humanitarian reasons, asylum seekers are not detained systematically – and the refugee status is granted for ten years, and is easily renewed. A travel document is provided to any refugee that wants to leave France. Family reunification is possible and access to French Citizenship is made faster for refugees: it is granted immediately without the need to have resided 5 years in France (but with the need to fill out all other requirements).

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You can ask further details to Migreat expert and author of this article, Lou-Salomé Sorlin, lawyer in France specialised in refugee law and immigration law (focus on asylum applications – Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, etc.; advocacy; risks of detention, expulsion and extradition).

For the latest information on the refugee immigration systems in Europe, follow and click on the tag EU Refugee Crisis on this blog.

Immigration Hackathon in Paris by Simplon.co, MakeSense and Singa

Internet and mobile applications are revolutionary tools with great potential to empower migrants and refugees to integrate their new home. This is the theme of this weekend “Hackathon for Refugees”, hosted at L’Archipel by Simplon.co in Paris and co-organised with MakeSense and Singa.

Syrian migrants arrived safe on a smuggler boat on the coast of Italy. Refugees. come first looking for somewhere to feel safe.
Syrian migrants arrived safe on a smuggler boat on the coast of Italy. Refugees. come first looking for somewhere to feel safe.

There are 16, 7 million refugees in the world, 80% residing in developing or underdeveloped countries. 169 000 of them are residing in France, most commonly in Paris (45%).

Refugees are individuals threatened of persecution either because of their race, religion, nationality, belonging to a certain group or connection to political ideas. Refugees are thus people looking for shelter and protection in other countries, as the country they live in cannot guarantee it.

On April 19th 2011, 760 migrants have arrived from Libya after travelling for three days on an old fishing boat. Among the passengers, MSF counted seven children, 63 women; one of them pregnant. The majority of the migrants are originally from sub-Saharan Africa. This is the biggest boat landing ever occuring in Lampedusa. An MSF team consisting of a medical doctor, a nurse, two cultural mediators, a logistician and a field coordinator performs medical triage in the harbour and distributes non food items and water to the newly arrived migrants. Photo credits Mattia Insolera
On April 19th 2011, An MSF team consisting distributes non food items and water to the newly arrived migrants. Photo credits Mattia Insolera

Seeking Asylum in European countries is a long and difficult process. During the process asylum seekers are not allowed to work and so often not able to then rent or pay for accommodation, nor to live a normal routine.

Refugees are thus found in precarious situations and emotional un-stability for as long as the legal process can be, adding up to traumas of the past threats experienced in the country of origin.

The legal process can take months or years during which refugees will live aside Society without being able to take part.

RéfugiésConnectés

To fight that, Simplon.co, Singa et MakeSense are calling on all technology enthusiasts to join them this weekend in Paris to create new digital technologies that will support a better integration of refugees.

Very similar to the mission of Migreat.com, the event will bring developers, designers and social entrepreneurs to create online technology that enable migrants’ access to local information and communities at their fingertips.

The three best prototypes on the day will receive financial grants  from the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Fondation Free and the UN (UNHCR Innovation), and support from Ashoka,  Forum Actions Modernité and incubator “Migrations & Numérique” of FMSH and the Télécom ParisTech School.

If you are interested in technological solutions to answer to today’s refugee challenge in Europe, sign up to the event before January 30th here:

Tickets for Developers
Tickets for Designers 
Tickets for Social Entrepreneurs

Interested in technologies that support migrants integration? Say hello to @Migreat or read more about Migreat.com values and mission.