In the wake of the migrant influx to Germany since 2015, a plethora of support websites, apps and initiatives have sprung up to help them with matters ranging from the asylum process and language courses to apprenticeships, integration courses and health-related issues. To help navigate the jungle of available services, we have compiled a list with some of the most useful ones.
More than one million migrants have come to Germany since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to let in hundreds of thousands of war refugees in 2015. As a response, thousands of new initiatives in all sizes, shapes and forms were created to help migrants orient themselves and to integrate into society.
Due to Germany’s federal structure, free support for migrants such as acute medical care, legal consultation and specific assistance for adult immigrants (called Migration Advice Service for Adult Immigrants, MBE) are mostly organized and offered on a state- and regional level by Germany's six nonprofit welfare organizations ("Wohlfahrtsverbände"), or charities. Funded by the state and federal governments (more than 90 percent), as well as the church, this so-called "Wohlfahrtspflege" (welfare work) is a major pillar of the German welfare state.
- AWO, or Workers' Welfare Association (Arbeiterwohlfahrt)
- German Caritas Association (social welfare organization of Germany's Roman-Catholic Church)
- Diakonie, or Diakonisches Werk der Evangelischen Kirchen in Deutschland (the social welfare organisation of Germany's Protestant churches)
- German Equal Participation Welfare Association (Deutscher Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband)
- German Red Cross (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz)
- Central Welfare Agency of the Jews in Germany (Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Juden in Deutschland)
With a few exceptions, most of the following services are free of charge and available Germany-wide.
Note that the list is not comprehensive.
Immigration, arrival and integration services
- "Welcome to Germany" website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) provides detailed information on every aspect of life in Germany, from initial orientation and learning German to education and cultural facilities.
- "Integreat" is a multilingual online and app-based information portal that bundles communal information on topics like health, living, education and work. The repeatedly awarded app also works offline.
- Ankommen (“arrival”) app provides orientation during the first weeks in Germany. Focus areas are “Living in Germany,” “Asylum, apprenticeship, job” and “Learn German.” Available in English, Arabic, Farsi, French and German.
- Guide for refugees website by public broadcaster ARD in English, Arabic and German with links to Refugee Radio and other news for migrants, first steps, language training, services for children and more.
- Interactive map with more than 700 volunteer aid projects and additional information, also in alphabetical order sorted by location.
- Migration Advice Service for Adult Immigrants (MBE) "advises and assists on many day-to-day issues" like learning German, school and work, housing, health and family matters. The more than 700 regional MBE Advice Centres across Germany as well as more than 550 mobile counselling teams are run by the big "Wohlfahrtsverbände."
- mbeon app, currently available in Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, complements MBE by providing information on learning German, work and careers, health, housing, family and residence. The app is supposed to be extended to all of Germany this year. Languages: German, English, Arabic and Russian.
- Website kommgutan.info (“arrive safely”), a “companion for unaccompanied minors” available in English, Arabic, French, Dari and German
- handbookGermany, a multilingual website with practical information and advice on everyday life, including health insurance, divorce and child care; education and training, such as language courses and vocational training; rights and regulations like asylum procedure and domestic violence; and how to find a job. Also offers explainer videos.
- Q&A forum Wefugees: Volunteers and experts answer questions from migrants in English, Arabic, Farsi and German.
- Refugeeguide, an illustrated guide answering common questions by refugees for the time before they can take integration or language courses. Available in 16 languages.
- Rainbow Refugees, a "SOS" contact form for LGBT people "being discriminated against" or who are "victims of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."
- Youth Migration Services assist young people aged between 12 and 27 with their integration process at more than 450 centres across Germany.
- YouTube channel “Deutschland für Anfänger” (“Germany for beginners”): A German and a Syrian woman explain how Germany ticks in German and Arabic.
- Checklists with information to navigate everyday consumer life for download by the German consumer advice center. Topics include bank accounts, insurance, mobile phones, movies and copyright. Available in five languages.
- RefuShe — information on Germany’s core values as well as standby facilities for cases of violence.
Language courses, dictionaries and self-study courses
- Deutsche Welle's (DW) free "German on the go" courses offer over 300 video lessons and 14,000 exercises from levels A1 to B1.
- Visual dictionary with playback function and 16 different categories, such as food, weather and animals, by public broadcaster ARD.
- A list with 10 free apps to learn the German language
- RefugeePhraseBook — database with phrases and information in English, Arabic, Farsi and German.
- e-learning platform “I want to learn German:” language courses for different skill levels.
- Goethe Institut’s offerings — a mobile vocab trainer app for Android and iOS; interactive, all-level learning platform Deutsch für Dich (“German for you”); and web- and app-based self-learning program Stadt der Wörter (“City of Words”).
- WhatsGerman — daily lessons via WhatsApp teaching the alphabet, basic grammar, pronunciation and daily phrases. Available in English and Arabic.
Work, legal counseling, housing, etc.
make-it-in-germany.com, a government “portal for qualified professionals from around the world,” informs migrants-to-be about jobs, visa procedures and life in Germany.
- Job exchange Workeer matches migrants seeking work with employers offering jobs, apprenticeships and internships. Includes language requirements for each position.
- Information by BAMF on Work and career, including access to labor market and employment law as well as education, such as studying and vocational training.
- Refugees on Rails helps migrants learn programming languages with donated laptops.
- “Recognition in Germany,” a multilingual website to find out whether you require a formal recognition of your qualifications and how to get it, including a glossary with important terms.
- “Integration through Qualification” (IQ) website — information on credential recognition, occupational language training and migrant entrepreneurship, among other things.
- Central Office for Foreign Education website provides information on the evaluation of foreign qualifications in Germany.
- BQ-Portal — “information portal for foreign professional qualifications.”
- Federal Employment Agency (“Bundesagentur für Arbeit”) website offers resources ranging from a job board, consultation and job placement to financial support and starting a business. Its four-to-six-month program “Perspektiven für junge Flüchtlinge” (“perspectives for young refugees”) prepares migrants under 25 for job training.
- Refugees Welcome — digital platform connecting flatshares and refugees, who don’t have to pay rent thanks to micro-donations or crowdfunding
- Legal counseling offered by the German Refugee Council, the Legal Advisory Conference and immigration advocacy group Pro Asyl; also see this list of refugee information centers
(Mental) health services and resources
Refugee Toolbox — open-access online library in 16 languages providing, among other things, clinical treatment guidelines and info material on preventive health topics.
- German AIDS-help, an internet portal with practical information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sexual orientation and drug use, among other things, offers counseling via email and chat in English, French, Dutch and German.
- Website on female genital cutting (FGC), run by Caritas Switzerland and other organizations, provides information on the practice including health consequences, how to get help and more. Languages: English, Italian, Somali, Tigrinya and German.
- Queer-refugees, a website for sexual health in nine languages, shares knowledge about the topic of sexual identity and diversity and shows contact points.
- Zanzu.de, a multilingual web platform with information on sexual health, including a dictionary with important terms and explanations.
- Pregnancy and birth: Websites Pregnant? Zero Alcohol, an information portal for mothers-to-be available in eight languages, and “Pregnant and your world’s upside down?,” which offers a support hotline and a regional counseling centers finder.
- Psychological self-help health portals: Refugeeum, for refugees with mental health problems in seven languages, and Refugee Trauma Help, which offers material to help cope with mental stress thats’ available in English, Arabic, Farsi, Tigrinya and German.
- Android app ALMHAR (Application for Mental Health Aid for Refugees) and iOS app SMILERS (Smartphone Mediated Intervention for Learning Emotional Regulation of Sadness) offer online self-help therapy to cope with psychological symptoms of stress. The psychoeducation tools are available in Farsi, English and Arabic.
- Peer counseling service IPSO — face-to-face and online support in 14 languages. Also offers people with a migrant background a free 12-month training course to become a psychosocial counselor.
- Online addiction counseling by Caritas in ten languages, including English, Arabic, Russian, Turkish and German.
- Guidance app informs refugees about alcohol, drugs and addiction, available in Arabic, English, Farsi, Turkish, Russian, French and German.
- "Mind Your Trip" app aims at educating young people about the risks of new psychoactive substances (NPS). Available on Android.
- Information on “Health and preventive healthcare” on BAMF website
- Counseling for voluntary return and youth migration services finders (BAMF)
- Integration course venues, integration courses, immigration offices and MBE regional offices finder (BAMF)
- Restoring Family Links — tracing service of the International Committee of the Red Cross
- Trace the Face - Migrants in Europe, a photo-based tracing service for people looking for their relatives