There is no way to look past the fact that the integration of refugees into Europe has not gone as smoothly as we would wish. Xenophobia and intolerance are apparent across the continent where we would like it to be the opposite. From within the AFS network, from grassroots volunteers to board members, there have been discussions about what our involvement should. No matter how you look at it, it is apparent that we cannot look away if we still want to work towards our mission of creating a more just and peaceful world. EFIL will be answering this in various ways in the coming year; one of which is a 2-year long group EVS project focusing on the integration of refugees in Europe where volunteers from around Europe will travel to Greece for a period of 2 to 12 months.

The purpose of the project is twofold. On the one hand: to enable volunteers and youth organisations to support in the welcoming of refugees and migrants to Europe as well as to help with their integration process through non-formal education and youth work. While doing this it should contribute to the second purpose of the project: to encourage public opinion in Europe to be tolerant and more open towards migrants.  The project aims to empower volunteers to take action in these matters and have a direct impact on what is happening. The idea is that volunteers actively contribute to welcoming refugees and newly arrived migrants into refugee camps and other hosting structures as well as local communities. There, they should help prepare the young newly arrived migrants for a smooth integration into European society as well as to help prepare local European communities in order for them to welcome the refugees and new migrants with positivity rather then xenophobia. The hope is that the volunteers will also help facilitate the interaction between refugees and the local community members in order to set a strong foundation for their future cooperation and mutual understanding. Additionally, it aims to develop the capacities of youth organisations and their youth work practices to ensure a long term integration of migrants into their activities.

We realize that this is no small feat and there is much to be done. This is why we are working on this project with ten other organisations (Bureau Europeen du ScoutismeYouth for Exchange and UnderstandingSoma Hellion ProskoponScouting of IrelandScouts of Macedonia, British Red cross Society Royal CharterCentre la Chapelle-aux-ChampsSkatamot efh, Singa and EEUDF). These organisations have come together to work on this project and it is the hope that with the different strengths and expertise gathered this project will have a real impact. EFIL hopes to contribute its expertise in the field of Intercultural Learning through non-formal education. Funding for the project has been secured through the Erasmus+ programme speciall Call for projects ‘Social inclusion through education, training and youth ‘, namely the Call aimed at supporting the implementation of the Paris declaration.

Through the course of 2 years these 11 organisations will send over 60 volunteers to Greece for 2, 6 or 12 months respectively. EFIL/AFS has committed to sending 5 volunteers. The volunteers will be selected from the participating organisations and receive training and support before departing for Greece.

Updates on this project will follow in the coming months.

For more information: [email protected]