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Dear Muaadh,

Unfortunately the current political agenda in Europe is dominantly focusing on the fast return of refugees/irregular migrants to their countries of origin and on reinforcing border protection, whereas it would make a lot more sense to instead invest in the proper integration of refugees/migrants.

Europe anyway needs (matching) extra people to compensate the ageing of its population and to fill the gaps the (strong) depopulation of its countryside have left.

Having said so, the demographic and local migration issues are unequally spread over Europe. Main problem areas are Germany, Italy and Spain, most Eastern European countries and the Northern part of Scandinavia, whereas France and the UK relatively face less ageing issues and a higher birthrate level.

Second, European economies vary in strength and employment possibilities. Northern and Western Europe in general being stronger, Southern and Eastern Europe in general being weaker (which reduces their economical absorption capacity for newcomers).

However, as said in the beginning there is meanwhile an important political non-willingness factor which makes implementation of Refival's rural incubation quite hard.

Further, since one does not want to reinvent budgets (many European countries currently very inefficiently spend lots of money (billions of Euros) on often not very successful refugee integration in dominantly urban areas) a structural approach/model, which includes the central and local governments as stakeholders is absolutely essential to succeed (and scale the results).

Taking all the above into account, Refival's current focus (remaining fully open for alternatives) is on finding pilot-project partners in Spain and/or Scandinavia and potentially also Germany. Upon success of a pilot-project, its approach can then afterward spread to other European countries.

In respect to the kind of refugees "selected" (a refugee is a refugee, there should in principle not be any selection). Refival's approach is optimized for young refugee families who at the moment stay in refugee camps (for example in Turkey or Greece) and who face education deficits/interruption (see: https://medium.com/@refival/world-refugee-day-educating-refugee-children-3aeaa94c1182). This group requires a substantial period of adaptation to living and working in Europe (currently it on average takes 5 years before refugees can connect to the European labor market).

Refival's approach is less efficient for highly educated refugees (10-20%, they are in general better off in urban areas) or for (the 50%) people arriving without any education (in order to create synergy/equality/integration with the local community, a labor market connection must be achievable in a time frame of a reasonable number of years). However, for the last group, revitalized villages will (upon success) offer simpler job opportunities as cities and I expect to be able to help part of this fully uneducated group as a spin-off but not as a main target group for the pilot-project.

Your question about "easing" cultural tensions is difficult to answer. Refival has a lot of cultural communication elements in place to increase reciprocal understanding and my personal experience is that as long as people have proper interaction with each other such cultural understanding will grow and, second, that this is easier to achieve in smaller communities as in cities where people often end-up in parallel societies. There are fortunately good example from rural communities where this works well (see for example an Australian example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KE_6gpy3XEU or the Italian example of Riace: https://medium.com/@refival/riaces-successful-rural-refugee-integration-model-threatened-289700c6341c)

At the same time there are fundamental European values (for example such as fully individual freedom of choice and responsibility for women and the freedom to be LGBTQ or whatever identity one prefers) which often substantially differ from the refugee's values in their country of origin.

Fortunately Europe has a very wide spectrum of differences inside of its territory and therefore there is ample space for newcomers to keep/preserve a substantial part of their culture, including being Muslim or being member of any other religion (this inside of the same framework in which Italian and Finnish people or European Christians, Buddhists or Jews differ a lot from each other).

Nevertheless can newcomers not escape from assimilation to the basic European values unless their goal is to return home as soon as possible, in which case the target for everyone should be to behave as good hosts and guests (see: https://medium.com/@refival/refugee-integration-the-point-of-no-return-ae4dcd879cd7). If newcomers are not willing to adapt in this respect, it will be difficult to co-exist without tension (see: http://www.pa0319.refival.org/).

Johannes Cornelis (Hans) van Nieuwkerk

Dear Bremley,

Thanks!, I have been looking at the material you sent and there are certainly points of connection and I will contact people at GEN to see if there is potential for common activity.

What in turn may interest you is Refival's "cultural globalization" conceptual framework (http://www.pg0319.refival.org) and its basic 12 pillar solutions revitalization/incubation design (http://www.a1216.refival.org).

Unfortunately there is, next to a philosophical and cultural reality, also a tough economical sustainability issue to be addressed. With the importance of agriculture having declined from 20% of GDP (50-60 years ago) to currently 2% of GDP in Europe, there is an urgent need for economical diversification of rural communities.

Whereas up till 10-15 years ago this was technically not feasible, today, many job tasks can be executed remotely via Internet and in my opinion it is a must for rural communities to obtain a fair share in this part of the economical/labor pie in order to create any sustainable future for themselves.

Bottleneck is, due to ageing and long-time outward migration/urbanization, the availability of young people in the countryside, who could execute such Internet based task. This is in my opinion where synergy between refugee education/integration/incubation and rural revitalization can be found.

Refival's main focus is therefore to develop a scalable model to reestablish the economical sustainability of rural areas. Since 40-50 million people left the European countryside for cities over the past 60 years, there is a huge potential for offering shelter to refugees and/or for the matchmaking between economical migrants and the demands of the European labor market upon success.

Key is education (see: https://medium.com/@refival/world-refugee-day-educating-refugee-children-3aeaa94c1182) and the distribution/relocation of jobs (http://www.openideo2017.refival.org/) in order to stop further deprivation of areas and of vulnerable groups of people.

Johannes Cornelis (Hans) van Nieuwkerk

Dear Isaac,

The successes I have seen are unfortunately not yet from my own initiative (although I have meanwhile been working 4 years full-time on it and although my publications, see http://www.docs.refival.org, reach a great number of decision makers and influencers in Europe).

Nevertheless I can show the potential success or feasibility of my approach by looking at others who partially follow/ed the same goals.

My main example in this respect is Riace in Italy, which was very successful from a social integration point of view for 10 years, but which has now unfortunately been closed down by the Italian government (see my article: https://medium.com/@refival/riaces-successful-rural-refugee-integration-model-threatened-289700c6341c).

However, the weakness of the Riace example remains its economical sustainability, which it just did not achieve; even after 10 years most funding was social welfare money based.

To address this issue, it is a must to relocate modern style education and jobs to rural villages and these jobs must be additional ones (classical agriculture, local craftsmanship and tourism (Europe) are insufficient to support/revitalize rural communities; a lot of diversification is needed). But looking at the examples of http://www.samasource.com and http://www.ruralshores.com, it is fully feasible to do so! However, this requires political will and cooperation between all stakeholders involved (central & local governments, private sector, the existing rural community and refugees and/or migrants willing to move in).

Unfortunately the current political agenda in Europe is dominantly focusing on the fast return of irregular migrants/refugees to their country of origin and on reinforcing border protection, whereas it would make a lot more sense to instead invest in the proper integration of refugees/migrants. Europe needs (matching) extra people to compensate the ageing of its population and to fill the gaps the (strong) depopulation of its countryside leaves.

Refival thus focuses on creating/optimizing the match between the people arriving and their future in Europe. It calls this process incubation and seeks partners (all stakeholders mentioned before) to work together in a pilot-project in order to prove the longer term economical and social sustainability of its approach.

Johannes Cornelis (Hans) van Nieuwkerk