If you’re an asylum seeker in Germany, you might have heard that the "Flüchtlingsrat" (Refugee Council) is a good place to go for advice. But what exactly is it and what kind of counseling does it offer?
Refugee councils provide assistance and support to asylum seekers. One of their most important activities is to inform refugees and asylum seekers about their rights. If you are unsure of how things work during your asylum process, you can call your local refugee council.
The councils compile the addresses and contact persons of places where asylum seekers can get advice and support. While they usually do not have the capacity to provide services such as language courses, medical checks, or help to file documents with the Ausländerbehörde themselves, they can point you to the right place to go. The refugee council in Germany's biggest state, North-Rhine Westphalia, for example, constantly updates its directory of non-governmental counseling centers that can help refugees with things ranging from trauma counseling to church asylum and voluntary return.How are refugee councils organized?
The Refugee Council in Germany is a network of state councils. Every state in Germany has its own refugee council that represents various migrant help organizations and individuals within the state. They are non-profit associations, financed through member contributions, donations, or project-related funds that come from state- and non-state actors.
Refugee councils are no legislative institutions, meaning they are not authorized to make or change laws. Rather, they are independent networks of NGOs, activists, initiatives and individuals who provide help for refugees and migrants. Their aim is to bring together and link refugee initiatives to make help more effective.
So the councils advise refugees. What else do they do?
The refugee councils can be seen as a political lobbying organization for the refugees' cause - one of their key tasks is organizing events and campaigns in order to raise awareness for refugee issues. Their members often comment to the press on current developments in asylum and refugee policy. Refugee councils might also support petitions and protests. The refugee council in North-Rhine Westphalia, for example, was among the actors who successfully campaigned against the deportation of a 15-year old student to Nepal last year.
Refugee councils regularly demand a stop to deportations to Afghanistan and coordinate demonstrations against planned deportation flights.
All councils share these general mission goals: granting all asylum seekers a fair and reasonable hearing, granting protection, sustainable integration, and humane accommodation.
You can find an overview of all refugee councils in Germany with links to their websites and phone numbers here.