The student-led NGOs taking on the refugee crisis

Students attend a first meeting organized by the Student Action for Refugees. Photo by: STAR

BERLIN — In 2015, as the greatest displacement crisis since World War II emerged, a million refugees and migrants arrived on Europe’s shores. Since then, with another 500,000 people arriving in 2016 and 2017, students have been setting up their own nonprofit organizations to help.

Many have been moved to action by watching the situation unfold on television. “I remember the image of the boy on the beach,” said Lucy Shearer, who set up a branch of the charity Student Action for Refugees at her university in the United Kingdom. “When I saw that I thought, this is it, I can’t cope with not doing anything anymore.”

While volunteering with an established nongovernmental organization is also an option, some feel they have more control over their impact if they create something new, spotting a gap in services or a new way in which to assist. “We are able to be flexible and react faster than a huge organisation,” said Florian Hollunder, from MigraMed, an organisation run by medical students in Munich, Germany, to help refugees access medical and psychological care.

Migration crisis: Two years on

In 2015, more than a million undocumented migrants and refugees arrived in Europe. A further 3,515 people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean. In November that year, as the “migration crisis” escalated, European leaders met to hash out a solution at the Valletta Summit, relying heavily on the idea that development cooperation could help.

Two years on, Devex is taking a look at some of the policies, priorities and trends that were put in action then, asking what is working, what isn’t  and what’s yet to even start? Read more about the rise of the migration agenda in European development policy, and follow the rest of the series here.

In doing so, they are creating change in their own communities. Francesco Faviere and Camilla Brancolini set up Koine, a nonprofit association that aims to help refugees integrate in Berlin. The pair, who recently graduated from Humboldt University, has just secured funding from the Heinrich Boll Foundation to help refugees find housing in the city.

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About the author

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    Abby Young-Powell

    Abby Young-Powell is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor based in Berlin. She covers a range of topics for publications including The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and Deutsche Welle. Before working freelance, she was deputy editor of Guardian Students, part of the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper. She is also a fellow of the International Journalists' Programme, after working at Die Tageszeitung in Germany.