Three years after its creation, Give Something Back to Berlin – or GSBTB – is now well known in Europe. He was declared the winner at an award ceremony at the Baku World Forum 2016, held in the Azerbaijani capital and convened by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC).
The Forum, which officially opened earlier today, brings together nearly 3,000 participants, including heads of state and government, politicians, representatives of civil society, religious leaders and young people, who will share their views and solutions under the main theme ‘Living together in inclusive societies: a challenge and a goal.’
âThe refugee crisis we have experienced in recent times has in fact created a unique opportunity to build a new culture of living together,â said Annamaria Olsson, founder of GSBTB, upon receiving the Intercultural Innovation Award, created in 2011 as part of the partnership between BMW group and UNAOC.
Faced with an estimated influx of 160,000 newcomers to Berlin in recent years, including 71,000 from outside the country, GSBTB’s role as a facilitator of social integration is growing rapidly as many migrants and refugees face to stigma, exclusion and discrimination.
The refugee crisis we have experienced in recent times has in fact created a unique opportunity to build a new culture of living together.
“We bring different types of migrants together and make them learn and share,” she told the UN News Center, noting that volunteers from 60 nationalities work with them.
GSBTB operates an accessible online platform to inspire and mobilize the Berlin migrant community to create social impact and foster integration, organize events for newcomers to meet actors in their neighborhoods and build networks for the intercultural understanding, solidarity and participation.
Once a symbol of the division between East and West, Berlin may have a consciousness of seeking better ways to live together, of not remaining isolated or separated, she said. Today, 16% of Berliners are foreign citizens. Ms Olsson left Sweden for Berlin in 2008 to pursue her career as a journalist.
As the recipient of the award, which comes with financial support, she feels more responsible for helping stabilize the refugee situation in Germany. âWe have over a million migrants and have a lot to do,â she said, adding that other cities in Germany and outside Germany are turning to GSBTB’s model and expertise.
The finalists were selected from nearly 1,000 applicants from 120 countries. Other winners today include:
- Unistream (Israel), which creates social change by enabling adolescents from disadvantaged communities to create and manage their own startups;
- Red Dot Foundation – Safecity (India), which brings together personal stories of sexual harassment to make public spaces safer for all;
- The Coexist Initiative (Kenya), which engages men, boys and communities to challenge stereotypes and socio-cultural conditions that hinder girls’ education; and
- Shine a Light (Brazil / USA), which teaches indigenous children to share their stories through digital arts.
Desperate people seeking refuge
Fleeing armed conflict and persecution in their countries, and deteriorating living conditions in neighboring countries where they initially sought refuge, people are risking their lives in increasing numbers to find a safe place to live in Europe and beyond. . In the photo, at sunset, a group of Syrian and Afghan refugees arrive on the Greek island of Lesvos – the main entry point for refugees to Europe – after crossing from Turkey in a rubber raft. UNHCR / Ivor Prickett
A nightmare crossing
More than 400,000 refugees and migrants made the dangerous crossing to Greece in 2015 alone, up from 219,000 in 2014. Smugglers charge between $ 1,200 and $ 1,400 per person for the trip and pile as much as they can. can in boats, sending them to sea without a captain. Many boats capsized. In 2015, nearly 3,000 people died or went missing and the death toll continues to rise. In the photo, a Syrian woman cries in relief as she hugs her three young children after a difficult crossing. UNHCR / Ivor Prickett
New obstacles at every turn
Traveling by land and sea from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, refugees and migrants face new trials and dangers every moment. Migrant women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. In the photo, refugees approach the border between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Previous clashes with Macedonian security forces were assuaged when authorities on both sides, with help from UNHCR, created a system to control the flow of people across the border. UNHCR / Ivor Prickett
Frustration in Hungary
Forced to sleep outside for several nights in a row in a “assembly point” and prevented from going to Budapest, the refugees in RÃ¶szke, Hungary, confront the police. Some then crossed the police lines and set out for Budapest. But by nightfall, most had been persuaded to go to a registration center, which turned out to be full, forcing them to spend another night outside. By this time, hundreds of additional refugees had arrived from Serbia at the original âassembly pointâ. UNHCR / Mark Henley
A child’s gaze
Education is highly valued by Syrians, who once enjoyed free and compulsory education before the war. The worsening conditions they face in exile in neighboring countries are having a devastating impact: some 90,000 school-aged Syrians now have no formal education. It is one of the motivating factors for families trying to settle in Europe. In the photo, in Hungary, a Syrian boy watches as police try to prevent refugees from leaving for Budapest. UNHCR / Mark Henley
Close their borders
Unable to cope with the flood of refugees flowing across their borders every day, some countries have closed entry points along their borders. For example, the Hungarian government built a fence along its border with Serbia and instituted a law criminalizing illegal entry into Hungary. Senior UN officials condemned these actions. Shortly thereafter, the UN hailed the European Union’s decision to increase aid to countries neighboring war-torn Syria and relocate 120,000 people to Europe, but said something needed to be done. much more. In the photo, refugees are seen through the barbed wire fence in Hungary. UNHCR / Mark Henley
Transport denied, refugees remain determined and unstoppable
Stranded for days at Budapest’s main train station as the Hungarian government canceled all trains to Germany and closed its borders with Western Europe, hundreds of mostly Syrian refugees, many of whom had already purchased tickets from train, set out to travel the 250 kilometers (155 miles) to Vienna. UNHCR / Mark Henley
Shoes donated for refugees with sore feet
Thousands of refugees arrive in Vienna, many having traveled tens of kilometers wearing only sandals and flip-flops. This has led to a huge demand for shoes. In response, the people of Vienna donated shoes to the refugees to replace their worn-out shoes. UNHCR / Michael SchÃ¶ppl
Temporary relief, long term solutions
The United Nations is working alongside governments and partner humanitarian agencies across Europe to provide assistance to refugees and migrants and to ensure that their rights and dignity are respected. It also works with countries to develop longer-term solutions that are effective, achievable and consistent with universal human rights and humanitarian standards, including the right to seek asylum. In the photo, in Hungary, near the border with Serbia, staff of the United Nations Refugee Agency set up a tent for new refugees, thousands of whom arrive every day in the hope of reaching countries Europeans like Sweden or Germany. UNHCR / Olivier Laban-Mattei