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Imagine moving to a new country where you don’t speak the local language – How do you contact the immigration office? How do you find an apartment? How do you figure out what opportunities are available to you on the job market or what the school system is like? These are the questions thousands of refugees have on their minds as begin to resettle their lives in Germany over these last few years. These are also exactly the kind of questions a German non-profit, Tür an Tür, sought to answer with their app, Integreat.
The idea behind Integreat is more than 20 years old. In the early 1990s, Germany saw an influx in refugee immigration but offered few mechanisms for integration. In response, Tür an Tür published a first-steps guide, offered in English and Arabic, to help answer critical questions for those beginning new lives in Europe. In 2015, the organization found there was an even greater need for this sort of information but changed its form of dissemination by putting everything in a one-stop-shop app.
As Tür an Tür extends the app’s reach to different cities and municipalities, the team is implementing a holistic development approach to ensure that it is useful in a meaningful way, with local governments, institutions, and refugees all pitching in to generate the kind of content that’s needed to facilitate integration. “We might know what’s relevant in Augsburg,” says Daniel Kehne, Project Manager at Tür an Tür. “But not what’s relevant in Washington D.C. or even in other German cities. The laws might be the same, but we have found that the really helpful content is more of the local stuff – where to get cheap groceries? What’s the best ticket for public transport? What to do on Sunday with my family?”
Integreat is now available in numerous different languages, including French, Persian, and Arabic, and the information on the app can also be downloaded and used without internet, making it even easier for newcomers to have this information on hand at all times. However, despite these advancements, Integreat hopes that eventually, they won’t be needed. “We are an impact-oriented organization and we are trying to fight information transparency and language barriers. What we are currently doing is we are bringing an additional solution to the system but in the end we want cities and locals to be more open-minded and help facilitate integration. Technology can always be a driver and a helpful tool but in the end, a system change has much more impact.”