How to Help Refugees If You Live in Sweden

The Local, November 10, 2015

The Local looks at some of the ways you can help refugees if you live in Sweden, which is continuing to take in more asylum seekers than any other EU nation.

  1. Donate money

You don’t need to leave your sofa to help fund emergency humanitarian assistance and support to refugees arriving at Europe’s borders. If you have a Swedish mobile it takes seconds to send a text offering a donation that will be added to your next bill.

An emergency package put together by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) containing a towel, a blanket, water, food, clothes and shoes costs 225 kronor. Text HAV150 to 72980 to donate 150 kronor or go to www.fnflykting.se where you can donate any amount.

The Red Cross (Röda Korset) provides humanitarian relief including medical care and psychological support for refugees. Text ACUTE 100 to 72900 to donate 100 kronor or log on to www.redcross.se

Meanwhile Save the Children (known as Rädda Barnen in Sweden) is focusing its efforts on helping child refugees to secure new, safe homes in Europe. Text Katastrof100 to 72911 to donate 100 kronor or head to www.raddabarnen.se.

  1. Pass on unwanted clothes–or buy them

A Swedish group called Vi gor vad vi kan (We do what we can) is coordinating efforts to collect clothes, shoes, blankets and sleeping bags to send to refugees arriving in the Mediterranean.

Alternatively, you can take clothes and toys directly to asylum processing centres in Sweden where refugees have already arrived. Find out where your nearest one is on the Swedish Migration Agency’s website (Migrationsverket). Some local branches of the Swedish Church (Svenska Kyrkan) also accept donations, as do Swedish mosques. The charity Islamic Relief welcomes donations at Stockholm’s mosque in Medborgarplatsen at fixed times on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, depending on storage space.

Going shopping yourself can also make a difference as proceeds from some second hand stores–such as those run by the Red Cross(Röda Korset)–go directly towards helping vulnerable refugees.

  1. Offer a spare room

Yes we know Sweden’s big cities have a housing crisis, but if you are in a position to offer a spare room to refugees–especially unaccompanied children–some local authorities have launched schemes designed to help facilitate this. Solna, north of Stockholm, for example says it is in desperate need of volunteer foster parents while Götene in west Sweden has put out an appeal for families who are “open and curious” about other cultures to help provide support to vulnerable young asylum seekers, by offering them a room in a family home.

Contact your municipality to find out more about the situation in your area.

  1. Sign up for a volunteering project

Numerous Swedish charities offer would-be volunteers the chance to meet and help refugees in person. The Red Cross (Röda Korset) for example sends teams into almost 150 asylum accommodation centres across Sweden where they help with language training and organizing sport and social activities.

It’s worth noting that while Sweden offers free language classes for immigrants (SFI courses) these are only available for those who have been granted residency and given a personal number. With many refugees facing increasingly long waits to have their paperwork processed, locally-organized initiatives to help new arrivals pick up Swedish are in high demand.

Studiefrämjandet, which organises recreational courses for Swedish residents, is also starting study-circle teams to help refugees engage in “meaningful activities” before they can legally start work or formal studies.

Kompis Sverige is a Swedish charity designed to help connect long-term residents with what it calls “new Swedes”. Each pair is asked to meet up regularly to talk and share their different perspectives on life in Sweden. The buddy scheme is currently running in Stockholm and Lund. Volunteers currently need to be fluent in Swedish in order to participate.

Love cooking? Invitationsdepartementet is a not-for-profit initiative that puts Swedes in touch with immigrants who want to practise their Swedish over dinner.

Or why not organize your own food, sport or arts-based event designed to encourage cross-cultural links in your neighbourhood.

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