Social and legal assistance

General Description

The RESCUE Partners gathered 20 experiences of work with Syrian refugees and IDPs during the period March-June 2017. Finally, after a selection phase, 17 of these experiences were analysed, 6 from European countries and 11 from partner countries.

The selection phase took into account the following aspects in order to collect and study the information properly:

  • Projects, programs or activities running currently (at least during 2016). Activities or actions planned to be implemented in the future were excluded.
  • Projects, programmes or activities with an impact or potential impact into the refugee crisis and the educational field.
  • Projects, programmes or activities that give proper information in order to cover the majority of the questions proposed.

According with the selection criteria the initiatives were divided in 7 topical categories.

The Categories are the following:

  • Social integration measures: addressed to improve the integration of refugee students in their new social and cultural environment. These initiatives cover a wide range of activities, for instance, language courses, raising awareness campaigns, activities;
  • Labour market integration measures: actions, activities, and so on, addressed to improve refugee employability. The employability is defined as the capability of getting and keeping satisfactory work. In this field we find vocational training;
  • Access to education. The access to education category involves measures addressed to facilitate, encourage and enhance the enrolment of refugee students into the educational system. This category integrates such measures as recruitment activities, removal or flexibility of some bureaucratic requirements, recognition of prior learning, accommodation;
  • Financial support. The financial support includes free tuition fees, tuition discounts for Syrian students, scholarships, etc.
  • Integration into the educational institution. In this category there are initiatives that fully or partially include activities addressed to facilitating the integration of Syrian students for instance buddy programs, mentoring, etc.
  • Social and legal assistance. This is a complex category that includes psychosocial assistance and legal assistance;
  • Networks/alliances. This category includes cooperation between different actors in the same initiative: NGOs (local, national, international), universities, European Union, United Nation agencies.

    Important to point out that sometimes a single initiative can be categorized in more than one item.

Jusoor (Lebanon)

Country: Lebanon
Institutions: Jusoor
Name of Experience: Refugee Education Program: Generation Hope for Syria


Jusoor is a Syrian expatriate-led international NGO that supports various educational initiatives for Syrians affected by the conflict. In Lebanon specifically, the organization’s “Refugee Education Program: Generation Hope for Syria” enrolls Syrian students in primary and secondary schools throughout the country and provides informal education at centers in Beirut
and Biqa’a Valley.
According with the Program “Jusoor has been working with Syrian refugees in Lebanon since June 2013. Jusoor’s refugee education program in Lebanon seeks to ensure Syrian refugees in Lebanon have a holistic, well rounded primary school education through integration into formal schooling whenever possible, introducing contextual and relevant curricula and teaching methods to deliver informal education, and providing a strong psycho-social support within the framework of community engagement and rehabilitation”.

For more information: Refugee Education Program

Lunched in June 2013, the program is currently educating more than 1000 Syrian children. The program is led by displaced Syrian university students, with fundraising and other support from Jusoor’s international leadership.

Relevance of the development of initiative in its specific context
Syrian refugees include among them large number of Syrians aged 15-24, whose higher education, professional development, and technical training has been disrupted as a result of the violence and general deterioration at both Syrian’s high schools and its public and private universities. According to the report :” Uncounted and Unacknowledged: Syria’s Refugee University Students and Academic in Jordan,” higher education was a critical engine of development and social mobility in pre-conflict Syria.

The team is composed of two parts: employees who are employed by Jusoor, while others work as volunteers. The volunteer students have a desire to both continue their education and help their fellow Syrians.

The major difference of this initiative is that part of the working team is composed of Syrian students, i.e. the refugees themselves. Therefore, possible to replicate this idea in the partner institutions which will be very helpful in gaining sustainability.

Innovative character
This program, notable of both its efficacy and it ripple effects, represents an important example for the benefits that flow from connecting highly-motivated Syrian university students to opportunities to serve and work within their own communities.

TU Berlin (Germany)

Country: Germany
Istitutions: TU Berlin
Name of the Experience: In(2)TU Berlin

Several facilities of TU Berlin are working together to enhance the academic and social situation of Syrian refugees at campus.

Main initiatives are:

1. Studienkolleg: Teaching German language exclusively for Syrian refugees to make them ready to attend lectures. Language stage C1 is needed for matriculation at TU Berlin.

2. In(2) TU Berlin: Refugees can attend classes without proper matriculation as guest students. When they pass the exam the received credit points are valid after matriculation.

3. Student counseling: General counseling of students who want to study at TUBerlin has additionally counseling Syrian students. This includes selection of suitable study programs, legal and administrative organization and career counseling. also the link between all other initiatives for refugees at TU Berlin. It as well connects to:

4. Psychological counseling: Several types of phobias are present among students, most often related to examination. Traumatized refugee students are advised in this unit and get recommendations for further treatment.

5. In(2) Tu Berlin Kultur Café: cultural exchange in a small café with thematic evenings. The students get into personal contact via music and other cultural activities.

The connection takes place between Syrian, other international and German students as well.

The management and connection of these offers makes the initiative successful and a key feature of universities effort to lower the obstacles of refugees to enter the higher education system.

More information at:


The initiative is running until October 2015. Until now, 2,600 refugees attended a personal information session. 1,400 obtained special consultation sessions. In relation to 10,000 information and 4,000 personal counseling sessions performed for all students this outcome seems to have a high impact and acceptance among the refugee students. Counselling is mainly done by one member of the student counselling office, a psychologist and several teachers for German language at Studienkolleg. A strong benefit of the initiatives in German language which is a substantial obstacle to enter university as the conditions are C1 level which is very ambitious to get in a short period of time. Legal aspects when entering a foreign administrative system is almost impossible to handle without help. This includes the whole options of German study programs but additionally of the German labour market

 Relevance of the development of initiative in its specific context

Especially in Berlin the number of Syrian refugees is very high and the number of refugees who want to start or continue their academic education as well. Therefore, support is given by the government, DAAD funding especially for language courses and the local municipality.


First counselling sessions for In(2)TU Berlin program do not show a trend over time concerning the number of participants. For personal consultation the numbers are decreasing. This may be a result of the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey where refugees with an academic background are not allowed to go to Europe, especially Germany. Overall attendance numbers proof the need for the initiative. A general observation is that the number of refugees who take advantage of psychological help increases. The initiative is deeply implemented in the administrative procedures of students counselling and therefore is designed to be long-lasting and sustainable.


Beside specialties of national language, legal and administration issues the main advantage is the connection between these facilities and the capability to create strong network inside and outside university in a holistic way. This is exportable to any other situation concerning counseling of refugee students

Innovative character

Connection of facilities and interdisciplinary approaches to enhance the situation of refugees at university is not a new strategy but usually processes lack strong connections and synergy which increase high efficiency in a small amount of time. Taking the long-lasting structures like student counseling to face new problems makes processes more stable.

University of Barcelona (Spain)

Country: Spain
Institutions: University of Barcelona
Name of the initiative: Transition to graduate studies and training in human rights


The Transition to graduate studies and training in human rights is one of the action lines of the University of Barcelona Refugee Support Program. The Transition course is a pilot project and it started the first edition in October 2016. During the course 2017-2018 will start the second edition.

The transition course provides with a full scholarship (accommodation, free tuition, psychological and legal assistance, social integration measure, etc). During the first edition a total amount of 15 students, coming mainly from Syria, have joint the scholarship.

The transitional course is a preparatory course divided in three modules: Spanish and Catalanlearning language; preparation to the selectivity and human rights module. The course is cofunded by the University of Barcelona and the Barcelona City Council. During the first edition the implementation of different measures (legal assistance, medical assistance, language couples, etc) have allowed to create an internal network (among the different Faculties and departments of the University of Barcelona) and an external network (with the city council and other NGOs that are working into topics related to refugee population, integration, etc)


The transitional course has reach 15 students: 13 Syrian students, 1 Afghan student and 1 Palestinian student. 14 of them will enrol during the academic year 2017-2018 in different university studies and educational cycles.

At the internal level the institutional commitment has been a vital factor for the success ofthe initiative. We have to point out that the City Council commitment with the initiative is also an important point.

Relevance of the development of initiative in its specific context

The initiative is pioneering in Spain and it has allowed the University to develop its social responsibility chapter. The initiative has also interested different universities that want to replicate the same model.


Economically, the initiative counts with a budget and it is cofunded by the Barcelona City Council and the University of Barcelona. In terms of viability, there is a political commitment to continue with the initiative.


The initiative can be transferable to different actors.


It hasn’t been tested. There will be a first evaluation of the initiative in October – November 2017.

Innovative character

The innovative character is double:

  • The introduction of a global and integral approach. This global and integral approach (orientation, physical and mental health, legal assistance, language learning, human rights, etc) is possible thanks to the links with different Faculties and departments and their collaboration.
  • The human rights approach. The course is addressed to consider students as current and future peacebuilders. The course will give the students the abilities and knowledge needed to handle conflicts.

Barcelona City Council (Spain)

Country: Spain
Institutions: Barcelona City Council
Name of the Experience: Barcelona Ciutat Refugi / Barcelona, Refuge City


The City Council has been offering support to migrants and asylum seekers since 1999, through the Care Service for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAIER). It collaborates, through subsidies, with city NGOs working in asylum and in international development cooperation and education, which have been squeezed hard in recent years by Spanish and Catalan government cuts. It has also had the Barcelona International Peace Resource Centre (CRIPB) since 2009, which promotes peace cultures through dialogue, awareness raising and training in crisis management and conflict resolution.

The “Barcelona, Refuge City” plan was launched in September 2015 in response to the crisis and gear the city up to receiving and assisting refugees, providing the necessary services and guaranteeing their rights, and to calling on states to respect the most elementary standards of humanitarian law.

Our goal is an ambitious one: to equip Barcelona with its own, permanent, comprehensive reception model

The “Barcelona, Refuge City” plan operates on four main lines that involve various City Council departments and services:

Reception strategy: defines Barcelona’s reception model and strategy and the implementation stages. The aim is to minimise its impact and implement it in the most effective way possible, taking into account refugees’ needs and rights but also those of the city’s population.

Care for refugees already in Barcelona: this means bolstering the Care Service for Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees (SAIER) and designing a care programme that offers protection and assistance to asylum seekers already in Barcelona who are receiving no help from the state programme.

Citizen participation and information: the plan includes a civic space for coordinating the efforts of the City Council and NGOs in all the voluntary work, awareness-raising and development education tasks. Transparent information tools have also been set in motion, such as this website and a newsletter that will be sent regularly to anyone who is interested in receiving it.

Action abroad: the City Council is pushing for coordination and mutual support between European cities, both on a city-to-city basis as well as in the international networks they belong too. It has also increased the subsidies for NGOs working on the ground, at source and en route.

More information in: Barcelona, Refuge City


The refugees living in Barcelona arrived here on their own account, individually or with their families, by various routes, through Greece and Turkey, the north of Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla or by plane with a tourist visa. SAIER attended to nearly 1,400 people in 2015, 60% more than in the previous year and four times the number for 2012.

The Municipal Reception Programme was launched in 2015 to protect and provide shelter for these people via an agreement with two of the three social entities delegated by the central government to handle the reception process, ACCEM and CEAR. The initiative is now being extended to include other refuge entities working in Catalonia, with agreements being drawn up with the Fundació Benallar, Iniciatives Solidàries, Fundació Ficat and the Associació catalana per a la integració d’homosexuals, bisexuals i transexuals immigrants (Acathi). Psychological support for all users will be provided by the Fundació Exil.

The programme creates a permanent, stable structure for the care and social support of these people and 82 accommodation places in Barcelona, which will provide a service for at least 164 people a year. The cost of the programme, borne by City Council, is 800,000 euros a year, which works out at 30 euros per person per day.

The City Council also gives support other initiatives in Barcelona. The City Council and city associations have educational resources, as well as development education and awareness-raising tools, designed for civil society in general.

The “Barcelona, Refuge City” plan’s civic space is channelling the offers for volunteering that it has been receiving through the Catalan Federation of Social Volunteering (FCVS). The aim is to have a database of everyone who wishes to help and can respond to offers when necessary.

  • Information and awareness-raising activities
  • Environment-discovery, leisure and cultural activities
  • Reception and free-time activities for children
  • Knowledge of the language (language couples)
  • Communication: help in promoting solidarity initiatives and campaigns, social networks and so on

Relevance of the development of initiative in its specific context

Asylum policy is the State’s responsibility, so the time scale and the number of people coming to Barcelona will depend on the Spanish government and its European commitments. But the central government’s paralysis and lack of information and coordination with regional and local authorities are not only preventing us from gearing up for the arrival of refugees but also creating expectations that are not being met, similar to the situation that arose in the autumn of 2015, when Spain was preparing to receive a high number of refugees relocated from Italy and Greece who did not arrive.

in this context of uncertainty that the “Barcelona, Refuge City” is anticipating events and preparing the city to respond effectively to any scenario: a standard number of people arriving under the European quotas, a massive number of people arriving under unforeseen circumstances or a constant flow of individuals and families arriving out of the blue.

The preparations have been carried out by the city’s urban resilience committees, comprising representatives of many municipal departments and services.


In terms of political sustainability, Refuge City is part of the Barcelona City Council Govern measures. And it is depending to the Fourth Deputy Mayor’s Office and the Social Rights Manager’s Office.

In terms of economic sustainability “Barcelona, Refuge City” has its own budget coming from the public taxes. The City Council will work to accede to European grants in order to complement the budget item.

In terms of social sustainability, the plan action and the initiatives supported have the commitment of the civil society represented at the Espai Social.


The action is transferable, in fact, it has been replicated by other Catalan and Spanish municipalities


The initiative is innovative because the political commitment and the wide scope of actions/activities involved and coordinated by the City Council. All the activities served to the main principles identified in the action plan and give answers to refugee and to the civil society, creating spaces for the collaboration, exchange, learning and proposition.

University of Duhok (Iraq)

Country: Iraq
Institutions: University of Duhok
Name of Experience:

Description of the initiative
The University of Duhok accepted around (1200) undergraduate students at their different Colleges and departments as guest students (IDPs and Refugees) and eventually sends the credentials to their home universities.

The ongoing services are for English language given by the British Council.

The University of Duhok, College of Nursing has conducted a campaign on “Breast Cancer Awareness” for the IDPs and Refugees women at the camps.

The University of Duhok, College of Dentistry has conducted a campaign on children teeth examination.

The University of Duhok, Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies with the help of the New York University conducted hundreds of lectures and workshops on peace building and consolation among the youth of the (IDPs and Refugees) at the camps.

An International Conference on Peace Building has been hosted at the UoD and sponsored by the US Consulate General in Erbil and the Kurdistan Regional Governorate.

The UoD gave premises to the University of Mosul to use for their students to have classes during a period of one year after ISIS breakthrough. Our Volunteer students frequently go to the camps to help (IDPs and Refugees) through the UoD, NGOs and Governmental bodies.

More information at University of Duhok


The number of IDPs and refugee enrolled students in Duhok city is around 1200 students, the rest of them could not attend the university. The main reason for that is the limited capacity of the public universities in Duhok, the missing documents and the hard living conditions of students and teachers and also most of them have to work to maintain life for their families.

Therefore, only around 1200 students and only 80 teachers were able to find teaching opportunities to participate in the different departments and colleges of the University of Duhok.

The impact of the initiative was good because those students have the chance to continue their study and did not lose any year of study. In the case of teachers, some of them were able to teach their students and help their families financially. Many of the students get benefitsfrom the summer vocational trainings, workshops and computer and English courses. These activities made them capable to find jobs and increase their income.