A group of European artists, architects and urban planners has launched a project to restore abandoned buildings in the Ruhr region in north-west Germany as homes for refugees. The group has earmarked empty properties in the city of Oberhausen, where almost 2% of the population are refugees, mainly from Syria, but also from Afghanistan and the Balkans.
“We feel ashamed of the treatment refugees have received in Europe and want to improve things,” says Urban Jeriha, one of the partners in the project, who is an architect based at the Institute for Spatial Policies in Slovenia. “We want refugees to find their position and self-worth in society.”
The project, called Refugees for Co-Creative Cities, was awarded €50,000 from the privately-funded Advocate Europe scheme in July, which has funded initial research.
The second phase of the project next year will be the actual renovation of buildings with the help of refugees, and the third phase will be to present the project throughout Europe with the aim of finding five municipalities that will adopt the model. The goal is to provide long-term accommodation for refugees across Europe.
Jeriha says the project has already attracted support in Oberhausen, where property developers have expressed an interest in helping. “Ultimately, the model could be rolled out across Europe to help other groups of vulnerable people,” he says.