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Youth Helping Refugees

This proposal brings the skills and enthusiasm of young people from stable countries to assist with a solution for the growing number of asylum seekers languishing in refugee camps globally. It will: • Establish specially designed “Refugee Transition Communities”(RTC) in developed countries. • Train young people (post secondary school age) to provide assistance to refugees to prepare for resettlement globally. Young people will deliver: o Language training to assist refugees in resettlement to new communities. o Training in food growing projects at the “Refugee Transition Communities” (RTC) o Training in appropriate construction and maintenance skills at the RTC. o Placement in employment and housing in resettlement communities.

Photo of Paul Curtis
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“Youth Helping Refugees” will bring together two global challenges, youth unemployment and refugee resettlement to provide a better solution in both areas.
Before we explore the possibilities of what “Youth Helping Refugees” could look like, let’s first decide on our values and objectives and allow those values and objectives to inform and drive the search for an innovative, compassionate and effective solution.  
  1. All mankind are one species.We are in essence all brothers and sisters on this planet.
  2. Those who benefit from the advantages of a relatively wealthy and free society have some responsibility to care for and lift others who are less fortunate.
  3. If any man woman or child is diminished within our sphere of influence it diminishes us.If they are lifted then we also are lifted.
  1. Outline a proposal which is compassionate and supportive to genuine Refugees, and matches the needs of refugees with the skills and enthusiasm of youth while giving those young people valuable training, skills and employment.
  2. Outline a proposal which does no further damage, physically or mentally to Refugees.
  3. Outline a proposal which maintains the integrity of national borders.
  4. Outline a proposal which destroys the business model of the people smugglers.
  5. Outline a proposal which would be welcomed by countries around the world.
  6. Outline a proposal which is not inordinately expensive.
  7. Outline a proposal which any Government or people would be proud to host.
  8. Outline a proposal which appeals to the best nature of mankind and does not appeal to the worst aspects of human nature - a proposal that lifts the moral standards of western countries - a policy that demonstrates that compassion combined with the skills, ideals and the enthusiasm of youth can work in this difficult situation.
  9. Define a proposal which can act as an example to the world of how a compassionate policy on refugees can also be effective.
  10. Define a proposal which exceeds international obligations in the treatment of Asylum Seekers.
The following proposal is designed to accommodate and satisfy the above listed values and objectives. 
The Proposal
  1. A new ethical social enterprise will be established to deliver this proposal.The new enterprise will seek to contract to government the services detailed below.
  2. In cooperation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) a pilot Refugee Transition Community (RTC) will be established in a western country, like Australia to receive Asylum Seekers who will be assessed by the UNHCR to ascertain their refugee status.The asylum seekers will be invited to participate from refugee camps and countries where refugees are unable to seek asylum. This RTC facility will resemble a small town, as much as possible, rather than a jail or detention facility. Of necessity Asylum Seekers will not be able to leave the RTC while establishing the validity of their case. In all other ways the RTC will not resemble a detention facility.
  3. Asylum Seekers will work for wages to supply food and services at the Refugee Transition Community (RTC).This aspect of the proposal will reduce the incidence of mental health issues among Asylum Seekers and the greater community will be more accepting of Asylum Seekers who are working for their upkeep.
  4. Trainers, supervisors and other staff will wherever possible be young people working with “Youth Helping Refugees”
  5. The proposed Refugee Transition Community (RTC) will perform the following functions:
  • Establish the validity of Asylum Seeker claims and return those who have no valid claim for asylum and are not at risk, to their own countries.This work will require specialist qualifications and young people working with “Youth Helping Refugees” may play a limited support role.
  • Provide physical and mental health assessment and treatment where necessary. Again this work will require specialist qualifications and young people working with “Youth Helping Refugees” may play a limited support role.
  • Identify countries, for permanent settlement of approved refugees and their families, with the assistance and cooperation of the refugees, UNHCR and sovereign countries. This work can be done by young people working with “Youth Helping Refugees”
  • Operate schools to local standards for all young refugees to year 12, using “Youth Helping Refugees” young people wherever possible.
  • Teach English to all, using trained “Youth Helping Refugees” young people. Immerse refugees in an English speaking environment in all their working and training responsibilities.
  • Supply home like accommodation to Refugee families, and shared accommodation for singles.Not tents but modest, simple, functional homes.
  • Require all able bodied Asylum Seekers to work for wages on real jobs including, construction and maintenance, food farming/production and other work opportunities. Asylum Seekers will be employed to do the necessary construction work to expand the Refugee Transition Community (RTC) from an initial small scale base. For this to work effectively a low skill construction system will need to be used.There are such building systems available which would be suitable. Wherever possible all jobs required to operate the RTC will be allocated to Asylum Seekers. “Youth Helping Refugees” young people will work as trainers, supervisors and mentors wherever possible, and generally work along side refugees.
  • Pay wages for work done by Asylum Seekers and “Youth Helping Refugees” young people. Asylum Seekers will retain surplus wages after paying local Income Tax, accommodation rental, food and other living costs.
  • Offer technical training, including driving licences, to Asylum Seekers to improve their employability and maintain mental health.
  • Pre-train and where possible pre-place Refugees in job vacancies in settlement countries including Australia and others. Provide training to support employment, wherever necessary and possible. “Youth Helping Refugees” young people will use internet services to match and pre-place asylum seekers in employment opportunities, ensuring they are trained and prepared for their new community.
  • “Youth Helping Refugees” young people could also be organised to provide after resettlement support for refugees in their adopted country.

Under this proposal the Refugee Transition Community (RTC) will more closely resemble a closed village or country town than a detention facility or refugee camp. 

A policy enacted on the essential elements of this proposal would have the following results and advantages which relate directly to the objectives determined at the beginning of this proposal.
  • Offer training and employment opportunities for young people to work in addressing and ameliorating one of the greatest challenges of our day – the training and successful resettlement of refugees, while learning useful employment and life skills.
  • Shows genuine compassion to Refugees, treating them with respect and humanity. Provides dignity, safety and hope to genuine Asylum Seekers.
  • Does no further damage, physically or mentally by removing Asylum Seekers from the hazards of refugee camps and people smugglers and providing a “mental health safe” village like environment including meaningful employment while being assessed and trained for resettlement.
  • Maintains the integrity of national borders by removing the incentive to use people smugglers.
  • Is not inordinately expensive in that Asylum Seekers are employed in real jobs contributing to their up keep while being assessed as Asylum Seekers and prepared for resettlement. Commercial detention contractors will not be required for this proposal.
  • This policy does not demonise Asylum Seekers and does not seek to gain public acceptance by trying to be the most inhumane.  As Asylum Seekers would be working and paying tax while at the Refugee Transition Community (RTC), and many settled in other countries, much of the opposition by local citizens will be dissipated.
  • This policy could be a positive example to the world, and has great potential to be applied in other refugee situations globally.
  • This policy will more than satisfy international obligations.
  • This is a policy which most citizens would welcome and in which they could take great pride.
 Young people working with “Youth Helping Refugees” will learn valuable skills and work in the important humanitarian area of refugee training and resettlement.   When we make the effort, compassionate and effective outcomes can be achieved in a workable Asylum Seeker policy, with benefits for all.

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

This proposal will benefit specific unemployed young people and refugees. The various tasks required would enable the employment of a range of young people with different aptitudes, skills and backgrounds. Governments would fund the proposal as a contracted service from an ethical social enterprise established for this purpose. The benefits to governments are clear in improved outcomes for unemployed youth and refugees.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

This proposal introduces young people to a completely new social enterprise – that of ethically assisting refugees, and provides young workers with new skills which are readily transferable to other employment.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

A small pilot project should be established with government and UNHCR support and approval.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

All comments and suggestions are welcomed.

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation


Join the conversation:

Photo of Serene Dardari

This is very inspiring!

Photo of Dean Strautins

Hi Paul;
You know you have hit gold with this suggestion. This is because it is well documented that marginalised people are the most entrepreneurial. The native people to a country get fat and happy and are less entrepreneurial that immigrants. In my University less than 10 years ago they won the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) global award. This was the first time a non northern american contender won the award They won because they assisted ex prisoners learn how to start a business and successfully do it. These prisoners were similar to refugees in that they were passively discriminated against.

Paul you can see in my reply to Paul about his (L)earning idea that it is possible to include his idea in to my Shopificaching idea. If you feel that your idea can also be included in to Shopificaching then I will add you as a Team Member if you would like?