With asylum centres filling up, Swiss artist and activist Almut Rembges has started using social networking sites like Facebook to help prevent refugee families from sleeping out in the cold this Christmas.

"/> With asylum centres filling up, Swiss artist and activist Almut Rembges has started using social networking sites like Facebook to help prevent refugee families from sleeping out in the cold this Christmas.

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IMMIGRATION

Artist using social media to help refugees

With asylum centres filling up, Swiss artist and activist Almut Rembges has started using social networking sites like Facebook to help prevent refugee families from sleeping out in the cold this Christmas.

Rembges, 37-year-old, began her campaign after finding a family sitting on the street outside Basel’s asylum registration centre on a bitterly cold Sunday.

They had just been told there was no space for additional refugees, meaning they would have to spend the night outdoors.

Rembges argued with the security guards, who finally granted the family admission. But the next day, they were back on the street, so she tried to find a better solution.

She sent e-mails, called friends and posted on her Facebook account that there was a family in need. Soon, 25 people had offered to help and nine people were quickly sheltered, Tages Anzeiger reports.

The six members of the African family — three women, two children and a young man — ended up in the home of a well-known migrant rights activist.

“Our guest room is quite spacious,” Anni Lanz told newspaper Le Matin.

Since the Eritrean family’s situation is no exception, Rembges regularly patrols the asylum centre in Basel to see if there are other refugees in need.

To help coordinate the operation, she has set up an account with Doodle, a free online scheduling tool. Now, when asylum centres are full, she posts a message on Doodle seeking the assistance of friends and relatives.

According to humanitarian organizations, many asylum seekers have been turned away from official shelters in the cantons of Basel City, Vaud and Ticino, despite recent sub-zero temperatures.

Some have been welcomed into private homes or have been put up by the Salvation Army, but many others have had to sleep in cold train stations.

Swiss television show ’10 vor 10’ reported that a Basel asylum centre had been forced to turn as many as 20 people away. The centre already gives shelter to 500 people despite only being kitted out for 320.

“We have no choice,” said a spokesman for the Federal Office for Migration, who admits the situation has been particularly difficult in Basel over the last month.

Roger Lang, director of the asylum centre in Basel, also confirmed the problem.

“It’s true that we are overwhelmed, but for women and children, we always find a solution,” he told La Tribune de Genève.

Switzerland has seen asylum requests soar this year in the wake of popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East. By the end of November, the country had received 20,000 applications, 5,000 more than in the whole of 2010.

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EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

Moving to another country is never easy, as it requires going through cultural changes and administrative formalities. It can be even more complicated when looking for a job.

EXPLAINED: What are the main obstacles to finding a job when moving to an EU country?

According to new data released by the EU statistical office, Eurostat, the knowledge of the national language and the recognition of professional qualifications are the two most common obstacles experienced by foreign-born people in finding a ‘suitable’ job in countries of the European Union.

Overall, about a quarter of people born outside the EU who had experience in working or looking for work in the bloc reported some difficulties getting a ‘suitable’ job for level of education (without considering the field of expertise or previous experience).

The Eurostat analysis shows that the situation is better for EU citizens moving within the bloc. But there are major differences depending on countries and gender.

Life can be more difficult for women

In 2021, 13.2 percent of men and 20.3 percent of women born in another European Union country reported obstacles in getting a suitable job in the EU place of residence.

These proportions however increase to 20.9 percent for men and 27.3 percent for women born in a non-EU country with a high level of development (based on the United Nations’ Human Development Index) and 31.1 percent for men and 35.7 percent for women from non-EU countries with a low or medium level of development.

Finland (42.9 percent), Sweden (41.7 percent), Luxembourg (34.6 percent) and France (32.1 percent) are the countries with the highest shares of people born outside the EU reporting problems. Norway, which is not part of the bloc, has an even higher percentage, 45.2, and Switzerland 34.3 percent.

In contrast, Cyprus (11.2 percent), Malta (10.9 percent), Slovenia (10.2 percent), Latvia (10 percent) and Lithuania (6.7 percent) have the lowest proportion of people born outside the EU reporting difficulties.

Lack of language skills

The lack of skills in the national language is most commonly cited as a hurdle, and it is even more problematic for women.

This issue was reported by 4.2 percent of men born in another EU country, 5.3 percent of those born in a developed country outside the EU and 9.7 percent of those from a non-EU country with a middle or low level of development. The corresponding shares for women, however, were 5.6, 6.7 and 10.5 percent respectively.

The countries where language skills were more likely to be reported by non-EU citizens as an obstacle in getting a relevant job were Finland (22.8 percent), Luxembourg (14.7 percent) and Sweden (13.1 percent).

As regards other countries covered by The Local, the percentage of non-EU citizens citing the language as a problem was 12.4 percent in Austria, 10.2 percent in Denmark, 7.8 percent in France, 5.1 percent in Italy, 2.7 percent in Spain, 11.1 percent on Norway and 10.1 percent in Switzerland. Data is not available for Germany.

Portugal (77.4 percent), Croatia (68.8 percent), Hungary (58.8 percent) and Spain (58.4 percent) have the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving, while more than 70 percent of non-EU citizens residing in Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Norway said they had participated in language courses after arrival.

Lisbon Portugal

Portugal has the highest share of people from outside the EU already speaking the language as a mother tongue before arriving. (Photo by Aayush Gupta on Unsplash)

Recognition of qualifications

Another hurdle on the way to a relevant job in EU countries is the lack of recognition of a formal qualification obtained abroad. This issue was reported by 2 percent of men and 3.8 percent of women born in another EU country. It was also mentioned by 3.3 percent of men and 5.9 percent of women born in a developed country outside the EU, and 4.8 percent of men and 4.6 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Eurostat says this reflects an “unofficial distrust” among employers of qualification obtained abroad and the “low official validation of foreign education”.

The lack of availability of a suitable job was another factor mentioned in the survey. In Croatia, Portugal and Hungary, this was the main obstacle to getting an adequate position.

This issue concerned 3.3 percent of men and 4.5 percent of women born in another EU country, 4.2 percent of men and 5 percent of women born in a developed non-EU country It also worried 3.9 percent of men and 5.1 percent of women born in a less developed non-EU country.

Restricted right to work due to citizenship or residence permits, as well as plain discrimination on the grounds of origin were also cited as problems.

Discrimination was mostly reported by people born in a less developed non-EU country (3.1 percent for men and 3.3 percent for women) compared to people born in highly developed non-EU countries (1.9 percent for men and 2.2 percent for women).

Citizenship and residence permits issues are unusual for people from within the EU. For people from outside the EU, this is the only area where women seem to have fewer problems than men: 1.6 percent of women from developed non-EU countries reported this issue, against 2.1 percent of men, with the share increasing to 2.8 and 3.3 percent respectively for women and men from less developed non-EU states.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.

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