In late 2014, German Mareike Geiling wanted to open her home to one of the thousands of refugees fleeing into Europe but she didn’t know where to start. Rather than giving up on the idea – and letting her spare room sit unused – she decided to do something about it.
So Geiling launched her own website: Refugees Welcome.
The scheme - which was co-founded by Geiling’s partner Jonas Kakoschke and their friend Golde Ebding – connects asylum seekers with potential housemates.
Geiling was stunned by the amount of Germans who were willing to open their homes to refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria. At last count, Refugees Welcome has 736 into shared flats.
While they started off in Germany, it didn’t take long before international enquiries came through. “We’ve been getting a lot of emails from all over the world,” she told The Independent. In the last year and a half, Refugees Welcome has expanded to Portugal, The Netherlands, Canada, Austria, Spain and Poland.
Is there a particular type of person that signs up to the scheme? Apparently not. “It’s from the age of 20 to 70 and very diverse,” she said. “We have people like bus drivers and carpenters, to doctors and scientists.
“We didn’t expect that - we expected that it would mainly be flatshares and students, or friends, and we are really surprised about the older couples and elderly people joining…even my mum expressed interest.”
Despite the fact that Refugees Welcome hasn't quite made it to Australia yet, you can register you interest here.