Written by Sense Reporter

Hello, I’m Julie Andersen and on the 18th of April 2016, I organised an MKS Room (hybrid event format with talks and live music) in Berlin on Unaccompanied Refugee Minors and the challenges they face as newcomers. This is a topic that I am personally very engaged in, as I volunteer a couple of times in a shelter for minors in Berlin, and grew very attached to a few of them. I became increasingly more interested in the topic while conducting interviews and research on the topic, and decided to throw a MKS Room.

After putting all the organisational things into place, which took a while, I was excited for the evening to kick off. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, as these things tend to do, and I found myself having to improvise a little on the spot. One of the main speakers, Mohammed Jouni had been caught up in a car accident, thankfully he was unscathed, and he decided to brave the situation and attend the event anyway, which we were all very happy about. Until Mohammed arrived, a young Syrian guy who was a member of SINGA Deutschland kindly offered to jump in to fill in for Mohammed. He added a nice concrete perspective on the whole debate, and discussed some personal anecdotes, comparing the situation in Turkey and Germany, stating that there was a huge difference of quality of life and opportunities for refugee minors between the two.

Here is the podcast of the emission you can listen while you are reading this article :

All the speakers agreed that it was extremely important to empower refugee minors, as well as pay attention to the use of words, by calling them “newcomers” instead of refugees, which is quite a stigmatising term in social interactions. Thorsten/Teekay Kreissig, founded of Refugee Repertoire (theatre project for minors) and Refugee Academy, a community initiative striving to bring education to refugees in their mother tongue, as well as in German, in the waiting time before they can sign up for official education, similar to Kiron University offering online MOOCS, but on a broader scope and in person. Sima Gatea, Co-founded of SINGA Deutschland, described the various branches of SINGA in Berlin, which range from professional mentoring, to language cafes similar to language tandems, and their main monthly social event, “living room storytelling’, which takes place in one of the SINGA members’ living room, where a topic is discussed, and people tell each other stories. Nabil Arbaain, the oud player of the evening, also insisted on the fact that SINGA had become a family for him in Berlin, and gave him the confidence to achieve his goals in a foreign country.

Mette Nadja Hansen, the jazz singer of the evening, mentioned she was extremely interested in the topic, in particular since her recent travels to Brazil, where she encountered an organisation working with street children in Rio de Janeiro. Ana Alavarez Monge, another one of the speakers, works as deputy head at Migration Hub Network. Migration Hub Network is a space created to unite social startups, entrepreneurs and initiatives working on solutions to contribute to the refugee crisis and newcomers. Ana mentioned the seriousness of the situation in Central America regarding minors, namely in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala, where gangs recruit young teenagers by force, leaving them with no choice but to flee to the United States, where they are usually intercepted and sent back to their country.

Although we were a little pressed for time, we manage to squeeze in a few questions towards the end, which then lead us nicely into the final part of the evening, which was a jam with the two bands, Syrian and Berlin band (Nabil and Mette & co). Nabil improvised on his oud on top of the band MNFT’s song, which was absolutely breathtaking, and created a magical atmosphere to conclude the evening. Quite a few people stayed for drinks, and asked the speakers lots of questions on how to get more involved with the particular issue of unaccompanied minors. All in all, despite the unexpected events, a very successful evening.

Listen more of MNFT’s work below :

Written by Julie Andersen, MakeSense volunteer and MKS Room master.