How is it functioning?
In October 2020, the City of Rottenburg called on its citizens to participate in the project “Neustart im Team” (“NesT”). The project entails volunteers from civil society forming mentor groups of at least five people to accompany a refugee or a refugee family through the process of arrival and inclusion over a period of two years. Before the refugees’ arrival, this group is responsible for finding an apartment rented out in accordance with local social housing rates. The group pays in advance – out of their own pocket – into a separate bank account, covering the rent (excluding utilities) for two years. In addition, the group also supports the refugees in dealing with the authorities. These “nest” refugees do not have to apply for asylum in Germany, but are taken in under the so-called “refugee resettlement” program.
Who initiated the project? How?
“Neustart im Team” (“NesT”) is a pilot project launched in 2019 by the German Federal Interior Ministry and the UN refugee agency UNHCR. Unlike private refugee sponsorship schemes, where the burden of all the costs associated with reception falls on the individual, so-called “refugee guarantors”, the “NesT” participants know from the beginning exactly how much they must contribute financially. The state bears the remaining costs that refugee reception involves, especially social benefits and insurance. The City of Rottenburg and the district of Tübingen support the volunteers in various ways. The municipality, for example, helps with the search for housing, while the district supports volunteers as part of the “integration management” programme. The volunteers are refugee social workers paid by the state of Baden-Württemberg. In times of financial hardship, NesT sponsors have the possibility to apply for grants.
What's new in 2023?
The program successfully completed the pilot phase and was made permanent at the beginning of 2023. Individual framework criteria have also changed; for example, the "hurdles" for the mentoring program have been lowered. The group of mentors now only has to consist of at least four persons (previously at least five persons). In addition, the mentoring group now only has to guarantee to pay the net rent for one year (originally two years).