Duo for a Job matches migrant jobseekers with professionals, while Refugees Got Talent aids integration through art

With so many people escaping to Europe from conflicts that are tearing apart countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, the issue of refugee integration is a hot topic on the political agenda.

While debate continues on how to best deal with the ongoing refugee crisis, some organisations and volunteer groups in Brussels are steaming ahead in their quest to make life easier for refugees and ensure they have a better life upon reaching sanctuary.

The Bulletin spoke to two such local organisations that help refugees and immigrants cope with daunting transitions and difficult adjustments.

Duo for a Job: Mentoring immigrants and refugees

“We have a wide variety of people coming here with different education levels and a wide variety of skills,” says Julie Bodson, project co-ordinator with Brussels-based Duo for a Job.

Founded in 2012, Duo for a Job facilitates intergenerational mentoring for young refugees and immigrants, whom they refer to as mentees. They are paired with semi-retired local professionals, mentors, who help mentees find work, usually over a six-month period.

Mentors are usually in early retirement and must possess strong experience in the Brussels business sector, so they can pass on their knowledge and experience to the mentee. Mentees themselves have to be able to proficiently speak either French, Dutch or English as well as demonstrate a genuine willingness to work.

It is not easy for refugees though, as they have certain formalities to complete before they can look for work. According to Duo for a Job, 42% of their mentees do not have recognised diplomas, which can add to difficulties.

“They have to be able to speak the languages here, they need a residence, they may have trouble getting the required documents or qualifications from their countries and it may take a long time to have their qualifications recognised,” says Bodson.

She added that even if qualifications are recognised, they may not be viewed on an equal level: “For example a doctor from Congo may only be recognised as being on the same level as a nurse in Belgium.”