Related Articles

Representatives from ten EU countries visited Restad Gård in Vänersborg on Thursday to learn about a new model for asylum residents. Here, asylum seekers have on their own initiative formed an organization, the Support Group, which runs various activities – for example preschool, language courses, computer courses and courses in medical Swedish. The Västra Götaland region collaborates with the Support Group to spread the model nationally and internationally.

Today, Restad Gård is Sweden’s largest asylum residence with around 1700 asylum seekers. Here you take advantage of every asylum seeker’s driving force. Upon arrival, each person may at one time take responsibility for an activity that corresponds to his or her prior knowledge, such as computer skills, pedagogy, sports and cooking.

Integration from first day
– Integration must begin the first day the asylum seeker arrives, says Adnan Abdul Ghani, one of the originators of the Support Group. He is a former asylum seeker and is now employed by Save the Children. – I see people arriving here with brilliant eyes. They have survived a deadly journey here and now they believe that a whole new life begins. They want nothing more than to contribute to their new country. Instead, the asylum process starts, which often means a long wait – for months or years. Soon the light goes out in their eyes, says Adnan. – Many who come here are highly educated or skilled, he continues. We have doctors, engineers, teachers and entrepreneurs here at Restad Gård. Everyone who has made it all the way up is also very strong individuals. Therefore, we must begin to see asylum seekers as a resource and not a problem.

Collaborate to spread
The Västra Götaland region collaborates with the Support Group to disseminate the model from Restad Gård. So far, thirteen other Swedish cities have adopted it. Last week, representatives from ten EU countries visited Restad Gård and they got ideas and inspiration to bring to their home countries. They received a clear message from the owners of the accommodation and the Support Group: The most important reason for the success achieved at Restad Gård is that all involved actors – non-profit organizations, authorities and the residents themselves – have joined a common vision and that they have a genuine belief in each individual’s abilities. – By being involved in the Support Group, the people here can contribute instead of sitting passively. At the same time, they retain their identity and skills. And if the residence permit is rejected, they can return to their country of origin with greater competence and a foundation to build upon, says Adnan.

Background, EU visit:
During February 8-9, EU representatives from 10 European countries visited various activities and projects for asylum seekers and new arrivals in Västra Götaland. Organizer was the Västra Götaland region and the Ministry of Labor Market in collaboration with the European Network EIN (European Integration Network). The Västra Götaland region collaborates with the Support Group to spread the model nationally and internationally.