The initiative was initially based in Paris, where most of the refugees under international protection have settled; however it has recently expanded to the rest of the French territory.
In 2014, 193 000 people were internationally protected in France, whether as refugees or as beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. This number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years with the arrival of new asylum seekers on the territory and the relocation agreements that will allow 24 000 asylum seekers to come in over the next two years.
Once they receive their international protection, refugees face a number of challenges including access to housing, to the labour market, difficulties to get information about their situation, and, last but not least, isolation.
First, it appeared that many refugees are denied access to decent housing. Officially, once they get their status, refugees have only six months to leave their CADA or HUDA to find another accommodation. In reality however, most asylum seekers are simply denied access to emergency shelter in the first place and find themselves in an even direr situation once they get the refugee status.
Second, regarding access to the labour market, many refugees face a global disqualification as their previous diplomas or experiences are not recognized by the State.
Third, beyond the material aspect, one of the biggest challenge refugees face to integrate society is to socialize and meet people. Indeed, the administrative procedure they need to go through to get the refugee status often isolates them, creates a strong dependency to social organizations as well as a feeling of powerlessness. Nevertheless, refugees hold various competencies, and a unique and profitable perception of our society works. In this situation, allowing refugees and French citizens to meet and interact is a necessary to integrate refugees into our society.
What you do
SINGA is a community connecting refugees holding an international protection with inhabitants of the destination country they live in around common tastes or projects. The various SINGA programs aim to organize and facilitate opportunities to meet others within the SINGA community:
- SINGA LANGUAGES AND CULTURES:
Not knowing the language or how to interact on the cultural level with the local communities is one of the main causes of exclusion for many refugees. Unfortunately in France the services provided in this aspect are insufficient and not always adapted. SINGA offers courses in the form of private, one-on-one lessons. The tutor adapts the lesson to the level of the student and their objectives are defined together in a personalized manner. Most of the time the course is adapted to the person’s professional objectives. Today, approximately 250 students learn French through SINGA languages and culture.
- COMME A LA MAISON (CALM):
As explained previously, many refugees do not have accommodation and live in dire situation. CALM aims at solving this issue. This project connects homeless refugees with families willing to welcome people. As we have a special team dedicated to realize the matching between refugees and welcoming families, we are trying to set up connections between people presenting common interests ( musicians, farmers, …). So far, 9 000 persons registered to welcome someone at their place and more than 120 refugees are effectively accommodated through this programme.
- SINGA PROJECTS
There also exists an urgent need to shift the perspective of the french society vis-a-vis refugees, so we are able to see refugees as a solution rather than a problem. In order to foster this positive perspective, SINGA supports refugees to start their own entrepreneurial to demonstrate to society that refugees are not a burden on the economy but rather a welcome contribution. SINGA developed a methodology to supports refugees willing to create businesses, organizations and cultural and artistic projects by connecting them with the relevant people and other organizations in the host country that can help them develop their ideas. Our objective: send the message that refugees present an opportunity for societies if they are integrated, supported, and given the opportunity to contribute. Each year more than 10 projects involving several refugees are realized.
- EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS:
Another important cause of exclusion for refugees is the isolation and the lack of social and professional contacts: In order to solve this issue, SINGA organizes a wide variety of events and workshops aiming to create connections and enjoy each other’s company. The objective is to organize events that will be appealing for refugees and for the host society: Thai-jitsu, cooking, art and dance classes, theatre, picnics, conferences, guitar and horse riding workshops, open discussions on « love » (Men and Women relationship), citizenship, and religion. Because sports are an amazing way to get people together and create connection between asylum seekers, refugees and the host society, SINGA draws a specific attention to Sports related activities and proposes Cross fit Classes, Marathon and Semi-Marathon, and Yoga classes.
How you do it
At the national level, both governmental and non-governmental organizations work together to help refugees to integrate into society, to have access to decent and to guarantee them a level of social follow-up. SINGA’s activities complement the work done by these organizations through the mobilization of French citizens willing to share ideas, competencies and create common projects along with refugees. To fully match the needs expressed by the refugees themselves, each program is set up after a benchmark of the existing services and in collaboration with different partners from both the governmental and non-governmental sector.
The main aspects of our cooperation are:
- The orientation of refugees from one organization to SINGA or the other way round in accordance to the refugees’ will;
- The sharing of know-hows with link-minded organizations and;
- The short term material or financial cooperation with structures helping us to give reality to specific aspects of our programs.
For instance, regarding SINGA languages and cultures’ projects, we have collaborated directly with the CADA who lead the refugees willing to take French class or to participate to cultural activities to SINGA. Today, we also cooperate with the organization ESSOR that organizes French classes in small groups. Indeed we often recommend ESSOR, or their various partners, to those willing to have more intensive French lessons.
So far, we have voluntary French speaking buddies in several universities including Dauphine, ILERI, ISIT, Sciences Po Paris or Créteil UPEC. We also enjoy a number of temporary agreements with museums and other cultural organizations that enable us to organize regular outings.
Regarding CALM, SINGA collaborates with organizations, whose works are specifically focused on homeless refugees, such as the Secours Catholique in Calais or France Terre d’Asile (FTDA) and Emmaus in Paris. These organizations indeed advise refugees facing housing issues to contact SINGA. We also cooperate with Réfugiés Bienvenue and with the Jesuite Refugee Service that both provide housing for asylum seekers or refugees on the shorter term. Finally, the Maison des Journalistes and FTDA also provide us with specific training on the different social and administrative procedures regarding refugees.
The other activities offered by SINGA (SINGA Projets, SINGA event, …) are based on the same kind of cooperation involving not only public actors and social organizations but also private structures willing to play a part in the integration of refugees.
Resources dedicated to the initiative
Budget dedicated to the initiative in 2014: 55 000€
Expected Budget for 2015: 541 103,98€
- Own-source revenues (services to companies, events, trainings): 11 300,00€
- Private donations ( Fondation Transatlantique, Ashoka, Fondation Neuvoie, Fondation Caritas, etc.):289 944,00€
- Public fundings (Ville de Paris, Regions, Ministries, UNHCR, embassies): 192 648€
- Crowdfundings (campaigns, private donations, etc.): 46 165€.
Human resources dedicated to the initiative
9 persons employed, 4 civic services, 3 interns
Other resources dedicated to the initiative
- rooms in various universities to realize our workshops
- free legal advice from Latham & Watkins
- free web development by SOFRACS for CALM
Number of refugees reached by the initiative: 600 upon the 193 000 refugees residing in France.
Our main achievement has been the creation of a community gathering refugees and local citizens around common projects. We can better understand the importance of the SINGA community through:
- The high participation of both refugees and local citizens to our public events and workshops
- Their participation in our specific programs
- Their presence on social networks
Today there are:
- More than 530 local citizens and 600 refugees engaged in our programs
- More than 8 500 likes on our Facebook page and about 2000 followers on our Twitter account
- The will, directly expressed by the local people themselves, expand this community to new regions and countries. Today, SINGA is present in Lyon, Calais and Montpellier, but also in Québèc, Morocco, Germany and Australia.
If we have a more precise look at the different projects, it appears that our main achievements are:
For SINGA languages and cultures,
- the creation of a platform where refugees willing to have one-to-one lessons can register;
- the implementation of partnerships with universities where students are willing to get involved on the long term;
- the creations of more than 220 twosomes ready to cooperate and share;
For the CALM project,
- the creation of an online platform where both refugees seeking accommodation and voluntary families having a free room can register (CALM);
- 120 refugees have been so far provided lodging;
- More than 9000 families have registered and are ready to host refugees at their place.
For SINGA projects,
- the creation of an innovative and holistic methodology to support refugees in the development of their economic project.
- the support of 11 refugees holding such an economic project.
Critical success factors
The key is to create tools and spaces where refugees and members of their host societies can meet and bond around common projects, tastes and interests in a horizontal way based on empathy instead of charity.
- Valorising refugees’ competencies: one of our core convictions is that refugees have an important potential and represent a decisive opportunities for our countries. On the one hand, refugees have a different look at the functioning of our societies. They often perceive what is missing or what could be improved. This fresh perception is particularly useful to design innovative programs that can benefits the whole society. On the other hand, refugees can hold original and unexpected competencies. In our community, some refugees are painter, musician, philosophy teacher, journalist, scientist, political activist, … all these competencies deserved to be maximized. This is why we do not work for refugees but with refugees in creating programs sustaining cultural enrichment, job creations and a welcoming society.
- Supporting and boosting civil society’s involvement: SINGA is convinced that citizens of host societies have a major part to play in the construction of welcoming societies. Through its different programs, SINGA offers to citizens willing to participate to a better society the possibility to get effectively engaged and put their own competencies to practical use. Thus, whether it is in the program CALM, SINGA projects or SINGA languages and cultures, the idea is to connect refugees and inhabitants of their host societies to find solutions to various difficulties. The recent focus on refugees’ issues in the Medias motivated many citizens to get further involved alongside refugees. In many regions, citizens urged SINGA to create antenna of the organization: we feel it is of main importance to back up these initiatives.
- Creating an environment favourable to innovations: SINGA has created a lab were researchers, professionals and refugees incubate and support innovative projects that will further improve the integration of refugees in their host societies. They also analyze and evaluate our current programs to make sure they help to solve real issues. For instance, the project CALM has been incubated through the lab and was the result of the first French hackathon on refugees’ issues. It has been a huge success based on the research realized by professionals on the use of new technologies by refugees, an evaluation of the needs in terms of housing, the realization of a Hackathon where people could propose the best application to help refugees find accommodation and the mobilization of the civil society.
- Taking advantage of the diversity: to implements its different programs, SINGA not only connects refugees with inhabitants of their host society. The organization also work with public actors, partners of the solidarity sectors, non-governmental organizations and private companies. This diversity is present in the different bodies of the organization (administration and executive council, team projects,…) and is even more developed in its sources of funding. Indeed, SINGA economic model is diverse: it combines public and private financial supports with innovative solutions proposed by social entrepreneurship (Lilo, Solimoov), crowd funding (membership fees, funding campaign, donations) and production of goods and services.
- Mobilizing local communities, including the private sector, is a relatively new methodology regarding refugee’s integration. It takes time to implement a new system, especially because our entire framework is built around a charity relationship with refugees while SINGA’s method is based on empathy.
- Most refugee support organization are funded by the State and they are in competition. SINGA’s business model is independent and sustainable but needs public funds to start and as a new organization so it’s hard to get public support. Especially because we are perceive as a start-up, a non-traditional actor in this field.
- Social network and digital tools allow an important visibility and big expectations from various territories. However, a tech tool is not a solution in itself; it needs human action and an organization’s process behind. It is sometimes difficult to explain to citizens who feel ready to “help” that they need to be properly trained before.