The NGO North-South Cooperation hosted a speaker event on refugee integration in Flaxweiler alongside NGOs Ryse and JRS Luxembourg.

Hassan and Gianfranco have lived very different lives, but what brings them together is that they both found their home in Luxembourg. The 20-year-old Hassan and the 57-year-old Gianfranco have been friends for a year and a half now.

They met through the organisation North-South Cooperation. Hassan comes from Afghanistan and has been living in the Grand Duchy for three and a half years. He met Gianfranco's children during an event organised by the NGO. Gianfranco was at the time teaching his son how to drive. What he hadn't reckoned on was that he would also teach Hassan to drive as a part-time driving instructor. "It's awesome, to be teaching the same things to someone almost the same age as my son but comes from an entirely different culture," says Gianfranco.

The 57-year-old man first visited the Grand Duchy from Italy more than 20 years ago because of work. The father has been living in Luxembourg for seven years now. As an immigrant himself, he would be delighted to show Hassan the rest of the country and discover new corners with him. Hassan values his friendship deeply. "He shows me how to drive and helps me to not miss my family as much," says the young man.

Hassan and Gianfranco are a great example of how exciting cultural exchange can be and indirectly show how integration can be achieved.

Projects focusing on bringing people together, such as the integration of refugees, have been carried out by many different NGOs in Luxembourg. On Saturday evening, a conference organised by the North-South Cooperation was held to discuss these projects. The NGOs Ryse and JRS Luxembourg were also present.

"I have the feeling that today's administrations often see NGOs more as subcontractors," says Agnès Rausch of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), who has been working in the field for over 30 years. The aim of these NGOs was to help refugees individually, says Francesca Tavanti from Ryse.

One of the major challenges in Luxembourg are the many languages. Therefore, the integration process primarily focuses on teaching languages. This is done easiest through direct communication and exchange. The organisation does not just offer activities where people can get together, but they are actively looking for volunteers who are willing to give some of their time as well. "We create interpersonal relationships between residents and refugees," explains Francesca Tavanti, "the biggest problems, besides the languages, are finding a job and a home for refugees."

NGOs dealing with matters on integration have two main priorities: firstly the integration of people who have applied for refugee status and secondly, the integration of people that have received refugee status into the labour market. Here, the NGOs accompany people who need help individually. The NGO North-South Cooperation has just launched a new project: They are looking for people with extensive years of experience in the labour market and in companies, explains Roberto Marta, founder of the organisation. They are seeking people who understand the needs of the labour market, internship opportunities, and employment opportunities.

Ryse was founded seven years ago and its main focus is the care of young adult refugees between the ages of 18 and 35. So far, the organisation has successfully helped 120 people find a job, a process that can take between 3 and 5 years, according to Francesca Tavanti.

Volunteers are always wanted at North-South Cooperation, as well as at Ryse or JRS Luxembourg in order to make integration as natural as possible and to enrich the lives of all involved. Around 140 volunteers are currently employed at Ryse, 80 of whom are so-called mentors. Mentors specifically help refugees one to one in navigating life in Luxembourg.

Watch the video report in Luxembourgish