A new initiative give asylum seekers a chance to volunteer as tourist guides in the Danish capital. New Times has interviewed the man behind the idea
In september 2014 Jacob Slaatto visited The Trampoline House for the first time and asked the asylum seekers: “How is life in Denmark? Why are you here?”
Most asylum seekers who responded said that they were rejected and had nothing to do because the Danish government would not allow them to get a job or start studying. The asylum seekers also told that they spend a lot of time in the asylum camp. Jacob Slaatto got an idea to change that.
Jacob Slaatto is the founder of “Refugee Voices Tours”. A concept where asylum seekers are working as tourist guides. He got the idea when he became a member of The Trampoline House and realized that a lot of rejected asylum seekers are neither working nor studying. Jacob Slaatto was very sad about that. He met asylum seekers in The Trampoline House, and he would not accept to see a lot of young men and women without any further hope.
Inspiration from Berlin
He asked himself how to find a way to help these asylum seekers in a legal way and how to find a kind of practice job. He read an article in The New York Times about an organization in Berlin, which helps asylum seekers finding practice jobs with a small salary as tourists guides. Jacob Slaatto then tried to learn more about the legal system in Denmark. He read about the law which says that asylum seekers can work without being paid. Giving asylum seekers the opportunity to work is a way to keep up their moral and hope. Jacob Slaatto decided to find a way to make better working opportunities for asylum seekers and learn about the history of Denmark.
Jacob Slaatto talked to the company where he was working, and he shared his idea with the company, and they accepted it. Finding tourists was very important, and therefore Jacob Slaatto went to Cafe Mellemrummet – a Cafe/Hostel driven by the Danish NGO Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke. He asked if they would allow him to ask tourists from their hostel. They agreed.
Tourists learn about both history and asylum seekers
During a one month long course it was possible to teach a group of interested asylum seekers how to guide. The areas Jacob Slaatto chose for the tour guides are the most interesting places in Nørrebro – many with a refugee angel.
In Nørrebro more than 60 nationalities are living next to each other and many of them have asylum backgrounds.
On the tours the tourist will also learn more about the life of an asylum seeker. And te job as a tourist guide helps the asylum seekers to meet other international people.
New Times asked some tourists of their experience after a trip with an asylum seeker, and they were very happy about the tour guide. The first day was the 24th of June, and at the moment five asylum seekers are working as tour guides.
Want to work as a tour guide?
The tour guide initiative would like to welcome everyone who are interested in working as tour guide. Contact: “Refugee Voices Tours” on Facebook or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org