We are ready!

Justice and Peace starts the first Dutch Welcome Group to support one refugee in their integration process.

‘It took little effort to convince my colleagues’, says Maaike Graaff (30), initiator of the first Welcome Group in the Netherlands. In Canada, welcome groups, in which a refugee starts his or her integration immediately within a small community, have been experienced for a bit longer, . The Welcome Group can be a group of friends, neighbours or a sports team. Or a group of colleagues, such as the employees of Justice and Peace.

Under the name Samen Hier, the Hague-based human rights organisation will soon start a trial with fifty Welcome Groups. Maaike Graaff found in her colleagues enthusiastic candidates to form the first Welcome Group.

Graaff: ‘In our work we encounter many people who already are committed to refugees. At the same time municipalities, organisations and refugees are facing disappointing integration results.”

Justice and Peace believes that the solution lies in a smarter use of existing social networks. Scientific research and our professional experience shows that social networks are crucial for learning the language and finding work. Integration does not take place at a desk or in a classroom with other newcomers, but in society itself. We can accelerate this process by directly linking refugees to Dutch people. ‘

The Samen Hier-format has already proven its value in Canada and shows that refugees feel more at home in their new country and enter the labor market faster, while their children perform better at school. ‘We use an algorithm developed by the University of Toronto. That way we can bring the right people together. ‘

The Justice and Peace colleagues are ready to start:

‘I would not sign up as a buddy of a refugee on my own, but together with my colleagues it’s not a big step,’ says communications advisor Marjolijn Lampe (45).

‘We are very different, but therefore we have a lot to offer to a refugee,’ adds financial expert Wim Ruijgrok (59).

After the pilot, Justice and Peace wants to extend the Samen Hier approach throughout the Netherlands. “Ultimately, it is our aim to match Welcome Groups and refugees even before they arrive in Europe, and to speed up the integration process.” To make this possible Justice and Peace is campaigning for the European citizens’ initiative A Welcoming Europe.