28-year-old Mareike Geiling and 31-year-old Jonas Kakoschke told NPR that they launched the “Refugees Welcome” site hoping to assist some of the 200,000 refugees currently applying for asylum in Germany.
After an apartment or house signs up, they are put in touch with a refugee in their city. Once a match is established, the website helps cover rent and utilities through donations.
So far, 124 refugees have been successfully matched to apartments (80 in Germany, 44 in Austria) and more than 400 refugees have already applied to the website, available in English and German.
According to the site, refugees successfully matched originally hail from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria and Tunisia.
“We are convinced that refugees should not be stigmatized and excluded by being housed in mass accommodations,” Refugees Welcome homepage reads. “Instead, we should offer them a warm welcome.”
Overwhelmed local officials in Germany often opt to house new arrivals en masse in makeshift conditions, often attracting criticism. Recently, the western German city of Schwerte came under fire after proposing temporary housing in a Nazi-era concentration camp.
“We don’t like the idea of putting these people into one place where many, many” people live, Geiling told NPR. “Many asylum-seekers have to stay there for years … doing nothing, because they are not allowed to do anything,” Kakoschke added.