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AVAIL – “Amplifying the voices of asylum seekers and refugees for integration and lifeskills” (No. 776175)

Project implementation period: 12 February, 2018 –  11 February, 2020

Project partners: British Red Cross (leading organization), Latvian Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Irish Red Cross, under the lead of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

The general objective: to contribute to the smooth integration of refugees and asylum seekers (RAS) through piloting, learning from, and embedding proven and new models of work that are based on participatory, peer and community approaches.

The project is implemented in the UK, Italy, Ireland and Latvia, the learning is shared at European level, under the lead of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

The project aims to: develop peer connections’ support between RAS; develop social inclusion between RAS and host communities; build capacity of service providers and public authorities and encourage the media to take into account the voices of RAS; and to gather and share learning.

The project contributes to the EC’s objective to develop innovative actions to increase third country nationals’ participation (RAS here) through:

  • educational and social activities and cultural life (peer to peer approaches, lifeskills training, educational events);
  • the volunteering sector (peer RAS, community buddies, refugee ambassadors);
  • media professions (through training RAS to speak up with the media and sharing RAS’ personal stories) and decision making/consultation and representation frameworks (refugee ambassadors, RAS input into partners’ and public authorities integration strategies where possible).

Educational events for RAS and host communities in Latvia
The Latvian Red Cross organises educational interactive events between RAS and receiving society. These events include cultural events for learning about local habits, social integration activities, discussions, etc.
Informative materials will be produced and will be shared with RAS to help them integrate in the receiving society. These materials will cover the following topics:

1) Employment rights;

2) Health and social assistance services;

3) Education in Latvia;

4) Activities of Non-governmental Organisations in Latvia and participation in them.

In addition, in Latvia buddy projects is piloted to link RAS with members of the local community. Newly arrived RAS are offered a volunteer “buddy” in their local community. The buddy is a volunteer who provides practical guidance, opens doors to local networking, and cultural and linguistic interpretation easing the way into the society and community. Buddies and RAS are paired based on gender, age, common interests, etc. That way RAS are introduced to their new environment and create social connections. Moreover, the host community buddy learns about the life story of the refugee or AS, increasing their understanding towards RAS. Following the refugee crisis, there has been a spontaneous movement of support towards RAS. The buddy project helps to channel some of this good will and help local communities get to know RAS and learn their needs within their own community. The pairs of buddies and RAS are reimbursed to attend some activities together such as entrance tickets to public cultural events, transportation, snacks, etc.

Project Manager for the Latvian Red Cross: Ms. Agnese Trofimova, e-mail: agnese.trofimova@redcross.lv, phone. + 371 67686312

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Actualities of project integration events and activities

Published: 19.09.2019.

We offer unique opportunity to learn exotic languages online and for free: ARABIC, SPANISH, FRENCH, MANDARIN, KOREAN, PERSIAN, TURKISH, SWAHILI, HINDI, URDU AND SOMALI!

Funded by the European Union, the AVAIL project is running various integration and advocacy initiatives in the UK, Ireland, Italy and Latvia. In the UK, this includes a collaboration between the British Red Cross and Chatterbox Languages. Through recognizing the untapped talent and skills within the British refugee community, this part of the project aims to connect refugee language coaches and language learners across the EU, in order to test and evaluate new models of language learning, and measure the integration experience for coaches and students.

  • ALREADY LEARNING A LANGUAGE? Receive free online conversation practice (intermediate or advanced level), choosing from: Arabic, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Korean, Persian, Turkish, Swahili, Hindi, Urdu and Somali.
  • WANT TO START LEARNING A LANGUAGE FROM SCRATCH? Receive free online coaching to learn Arabic or Spanish.

English will be used as the common language during the learning process.

Please visit https://www.chatterbox.io/learn-languages-with-the-british-red-cross to find out more, view the eligibility criteria and apply.

Published on: 13.09.2019.

On 10-12 September 2019, a joint meeting of Red Cross members from the partner countries of the international project “AVAIL – Amplifying the voices of asylum seekers and refugees for integration and lifeskills” (Red Cross national societies of UK, Ireland, Italy, Latvia and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies) and of a project “ARCI – Action of Red Cross on Integration of Relocated and Resettled Persons” (Red Cross national societies of Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany and the IFRC Federation) took place in Bulgaria. This platform was organized in order to share experience and knowledge on refugee and asylum integration issues in each country and in Europe in general.

AVAIL partners presented learning from participatory approaches and community engagement in integration activities, and ARCI team shared its recommendations from needs assessments and learning from integration activities for relocated and resettled asylum-seekers and refugees.

The two project teams are working together in order to organize a Conference in Brussels in December 2019 where projects` partners will present the lessons learned throughout the implementation experience of both two-years projects and deliver suggestions how to improve the integration of refugees and asylum seekers and the involvement of the host societies into the both-way integration process.

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Published on 29.05.2019.

Since the warmer weather has arrived in Latvia, Latvian Red Cross, within the international project “AVAIL”, invites refugees and asylum seekers to join public events, for example to spend their free time actively in nature or to do some sports.

Ezekiel from Nigeria, who is one of the asylum seekers in Latvia, showed his interest to join one of the biggest sports event in Latvia, international Tet Riga Marathon on 19th May 2019.

LatRC supported Ezekiel practically and emotionally. He was determined to run the full distance of 42 km, admitting, “I usually do trainings 4 to 5 times a week and I love to challenge myself”.

Unfortunately, because of the leg injury, Ezekiel did not run the whole distance, but more than 30 km. After the marathon, Ezekiel said that he was very proud of himself and that these new positive emotions are unforgettable and very important for his personal growth.  Also, Ezekiel was happy to experience multicultural environment and warm weather during this event.

The project is funded by European Union within the migration and integration fund (AMIF).

More about project: http://www.redcross.lv/en/projects/avail-amplifying-the-voices-of-asylum-seekers-and-refugees-for-integration-and-lifeskills/

TET maratons

International study visit in Latvia within the project AVAIL

Published on 05.04.2019.

On 28 March 2019, Latvian Red Cross (LatRC) organised a study visit for colleagues form German, British, Italian and Irish Red Cross national societies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC), as well as for representatives of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The main aim of the study visit was to introduce international guests with the experience of Ropazi municipality, Accommodation Centre for Asylum Seekers “Mucenieki” and Riga Secondary School No. 93 in regard to integrating refugees and asylum seekers (RAS) in local society of Latvia. Guests had the opportunity to get to know more about the general situation in terms of the access to education (especially for children), health care and daily life of a person before and after receiving refugee or alternative status.

First, participants of the study visit went to Ropazi municipality, where the Executive Director Signe Grube introduced everyone with different projects, activities and municipality’s work in integrating RAS into local society. After the presentation, the system of education, health care and social services related to RAS in the territory of Ropazi municipality was discussed among participants.

The visit continued in the Accommodation Centre for Asylum Seekers “Mucenieki”, which is located in Ropazi municipality, 40 min driving distance from capital city Riga. The centre is the main State institution where asylum seekers who arrive to Latvia live while waiting for receiving their status. The director of “Mucenieki” Peteris Grube organized an excursion around the territory of the centre, introduced with everyday life of inhabitants, internal rules, services and free time activities that are provided there.

After the excursion LatRC social worker and social mentors presented the latest information about the work with RAS. Participants got to know more about the “Buddy” program and the support mechanism to promote the integration processes and socialization with local people within the AVAIL project.

The third stop of the visit was Riga Secondary School No. 93. In this school several refugee children have started their studies. The director and teachers told about school’s experience and obstacles in teaching children with different cultural and educational background, and without Latvian language skills. They inroduced participants with several approches and metotolodgy of how to teach foreign children and how to help them socialize with other kinds. There are couple of good practice examples, where refugee children have started studies in a school, are very sucessful in dealing with exercises, homeworks and exams and getting in a higher grade afterwards.

At the end of the day participants of this study visit addmited that this kind of learning process was very useful and important especially comparing Latvia’s and other countrie’s experience: similarities and differences.

LatRC is one of the 191 national societies of International Red Cross movement, which works with the main goal to provide help and support to every person in need, including RAS.

Since February 2018 LatRC together with British, Italian, Irish Red Cross national societies and IFRC realizes international project AVAIL – “Amplifying the voices of asylum seekers and refugees for integration and lifeskills”. The project is funded by European Union within the migration and integration fund (AMIF).

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International conference “IntegRIGAtion: Humanity as integration tool” in Riga

Published: 03.04.2019.

On 27 March 2019, in the European Union House in Riga, Latvia, the Latvian Red Cross (LatRC) organised an international conference “IntegRIGAtion: Humanity as integration tool”. The aim of the event was to identify the importance and practice of integration measures for refugees and asylum seekers in different European countries, as well as to enable partners – national and non-governmental representatives from Latvia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy – to share experience in organizing and evaluating refugee integration activities. Thus, LatRC provided a platform for Latvia`s audience to learn about European practices and colleagues from other countries to get acquainted with the situation in Latvia, and therefore to formulate good practice in the context of each country.

The conference was opened by 3 refugees living in Latvia who shared their life stories, the experience was shared by representatives of Latvian, Italian, German and British Red Cross national societies who introduced their integration activities in their respective countries. Representatives of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Centre for Public Policy “PROVIDUS” (Latvia) provided an overview and update on the situation in the Baltic States and Latvia in particular. Among the audience of the event were representatives of the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Culture, Welfare, as well as the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, the Society Integration Foundation, NGO “Shelter “Safe House””, etc.

During the panel discussion, the participants of the conference exchanged views and experiences, concluding that several RC NS`s are having similar barriers to promoting the integration of refugees and asylum seekers. The main conclusions are:

  • the short-term approach for integration is less effective than providing long-term strategic support;
  • actual is issue of housing, especially during the first year after receiving status;
  • difficulties to find a job due to lack of language skills of the hosting country, insufficient amount of host country language training;
  • limited access to education for pupils due to different level of education and language gap;
  • the local municipalities and the private sector should be involved in the support program;
  • cooperation, and not a competition, between NGOs and governmental institutions plays a key role in promoting the process of integration;
  • an international network provides an opportunity to get to know other countries’ good practices, thus finding solutions to similar problems

Furthermore, when enabling refugees to move from recovery to integration, there is particular value in enabling full participation of refugees, daily routines and meaningful activities. Integration relies on effective structural policies but often it is the daily practice of how policies are interpreted and resources to deliver those policies that cause many barriers to inclusion.

Since February 2018 LatRC together with British, Italian, Irish Red Cross national societies and IFRC realizes international project AVAIL – “Amplifying the voices of asylum seekers and refugees for integration and life skills”. The project is funded by European Union within the migration and integration fund (AMIF).

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Latvian Red Cross educational integration event for refugees and asylum seekers “Latvia’s and Latvian RC` 100 year anniversary”

Published: 26.11.2018.

On 15 November 2018, the Latvian Red Cross (LatRC) within the international project “AVAIL- Amplifying the voices of asylum seekers and refugees for integration and life skills” organised an event “Latvia’s and Latvian Red Cross` 100 year anniversary”. It was organised together with asylum seekers and refugees, who made traditional meals of countries of their origin. LatRC volunteers and employees together with staff members of Ropazi municipality made a bean soup, organized a lovely concert and Latvian games.

More than 50 refugees and asylum seekers from Iraq, Turkey, Palestine and Georgia were participating in this event.

The Latvian Red Cross thanks Society Integration Foundation, Ropazi municipality and Accommodation Centre for Asylum Seekers “Mucenieki” for their help and support in organizing the event!

Latvian Red Cross educational integration event: cinema and lunch

Published: 26.10.2018.

On 24 October 2018, the Latvian Red Cross within the international project “AVAIL- Amplifying the voices of asylum seekers and refugees for integration and life skills” organised a cinema visit and lunch for all participants after the movie. Before going to the cinema, refugees together with LatRC staff members chose a movie, which they would want to see and discussed all details related to lunch. It was organised to have an opportunity to talk over the cinema experience together and in such way to learn about the importance of sharing ones thoughts and spend time together in a qualitative manner. Refugees and asylum seekers together with support persons watched the movie “Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation”.

The happiness in children’s and adult’s eyes was priceless, because for couple of them it was the first cinema visit.

60 refugees, asylum seekers and support persons (age 4 – 60) participated in the event.

The Latvian Red Cross educational integration event “Latvia’s nature and its animals”

Published: 19.08.2018.

On 18 August 2018, the Latvian Red Cross within the international project “AVAIL- Amplifying the voices of asylum seekers and refugees for integration and life skills” organised visit to the Zoo where an informative lecture about Latvia’s nature and its animals was organised.

Participants, especially children and youngsters, where very happy to visit the Zoo, especially because it was the first time for them. Many participants gave a very positive feedback and and asked to organised more events just like this.

In addition, meeting with giraffes and polar bears was amazing – animals seemed very friendly and calm.

37 refugees, asylum seekers and support persons (age 4 – 60) participated in the event.