Developing hope: Nour’s website supporting refugees in France
08 December 2022
Nour is a young Syrian. He arrived in France in 2014 and is the founder of a digital platform that supports refugees during their integration process.
From the platform that started at JRS France to its development by the French administration, Nour looks back on this journey.
I got to know JRS France as a participant.
In 2015, a friend told me about the JRS Youth conversation workshops. Afterwards, I worked in the Paris office as a freelancer doing digital servicing until 2019. During that time, I had a conversation with a JRS France volunteer (Irinda, advocacy officer) and we asked each other why we couldn’t create a website together to help refugees find out about French courses, training, and so on. So, we started working with another JRS France volunteer who helped me set up a digital platform in several languages. This is how Comprendre pour Apprendre (Understanding for Learning) was created.
Being at JRS France, I was struck by the power of the encounters I had. I try every day to adopt this attitude of meeting people on a daily basis. When I look back on my experience, I realise how lucky I am to be surrounded by so many beautiful people. If my project has worked and become a reality, I am convinced that it is thanks to these beautiful relationships. Hospitality is an opening and an opportunity and I wish human beings would continue to believe this.
Our core idea was simple: creating a multilingual website for refugees on various topics of everyday life – French courses, professional training, university courses. We wanted this website to be aimed at refugees, volunteers – to better support them – and also volunteers wishing to register their association.
After two years working on the project, the Délégation Interministérielle pour l’Accueil et l’Intégration des Réfugiés (DIAIR – Interministerial Delegation for the Reception and Integration of Refugees) planned to create the same type of platform. The Head of the DIAIR, Alain Reignier, came to know Comprendre Pour Apprendre through the former Director of JRS France, Antoine Paumard.
Thus, in 2019, Réfugiés.Info begins its development within DIAIR, based on the legacy of Comprendre pour Apprendre, and thus on my experience within JRS France.
It took three to four years of incubation in an association for such a project to take off. Progressively, with the resources of the DIAIR, three other years of work and a national coverage, the application was launched.
What is Réfugiés.Info?
I consider Réfugiés.Info to be a good support because anyone can find the information either at territorial or national level, and can then easily share the information via SMS or social media. The information is translated not by artificial intelligence, but by specialised translators in six languages, with English and Dari being the most used languages.
Of course, this tool will never replace human support, but it is a way of providing better quality guidance. The website and the app accompany people by showing the different steps of a procedure – health card, receipt, naturalisation, details of a programme. – in the language of the refugee.
This tool also helps to relieve the support workers, who are often overwhelmed. It is a resource of translated procedures and systems that can be directly accessible in the pockets of refugees.
I would never have believed that the Government would adopt such a project, and yet I believed in it and gave it my best. I would like to share that nothing is impossible but everything takes time to develop, you just have to keep believing in it.
Practically speaking, how do you help refugees with this website and this app?
There are more than 80 procedures explained in simplified French and translated in other languages. This ranges from applying for a different driving licence, to applying for social housing, to applying for a health insurance card. There are also 470 national or local association programmes, such as JRS Youth.
What about digital technology?
The digitisation of procedures at Government level is a step in the right direction, but it is important to recognise that the transformation is a long process. In the long term, I think this is a good thing, but the integration community is impacted by the time consuming and slow process. Personally, I think it’s important to keep both options: digital or paper support. That’s why I created Réfugiés.Info, to help people in their efforts. I hope that the tool will help many refugees and accompany them in their integration process!
This story was originally published by JRS France.