Projects with refugees

Projects with refugees

Many artists and cultural professionals in Germany want to get involved with refugee aid efforts. Portals such as illustrate the need and the possibilities for social commitment on behalf of refugees. 

The Bundesvereinigung Kultureller Kinder- und Jugendbildung (German Federal Association for Cultural Education for Children and Young People) has a wealth of combined experience gained over many years of working with unaccompanied refugee minors and with children and adolescents who come to Germany with their families. More information here (in German only).

The focus is often on cultural exchange with refugees, without the refugees themselves being engaged in the cultural sector, or it involves artistic projects with artists on both sides. 

Generally, many people engaged in the cultural sector ask similar questions; for example: 

  • How can I start my own projects in this area?
  • Where can I find funding opportunities? 
  • Are refugee artists and creatives permitted to receive payment for participation in a project? 
  • What insurance coverage do participants have? 
  • Do I have to pay royalties on any music I use? 

The Refugee Councils of the individual German Federal States can offer assistance with regard to some of these issues: or Many of them provide well-researched background information and the latest legislative information and also organize events and training for volunteers or social workers who work with refugees. They are also in a position to establish contacts with refugee camp institutions.

The Commissioner for Migration and Integration of the Berlin Senate provides free-of-charge workshops for volunteers working with refugees as well as trainings for people working for non-governmental consulting services, all . More information here (in German).

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How can I start my own projects in this area?

In general, all interested parties and people engaged in the cultural sector are free to launch cultural projects with refugees. Artists’ associations and regional projects that are part of the Kultur macht stark! (“Culture empowers!”) program provide opportunities to become involved with existing projects or networks in this area as well as offering advice. 

For artistic projects, it is recommended that you contact with networks of those artists and creatives who have come to Germany, for example through portals such as

Many projects develop from personal contact in refugee accommodation - with the management and the social workers, and with representatives of the facilities. Social engagement is often a key requirement. Artistic projects are often met with skepticism. 

The development of an artistic project requires artistic skills on both sides and the security of being able to work together reliably for a certain period. This can often not be ensured with regard to the refugee artists, for example because administrative formalities become necessary on short notice, the refugees must suddenly move to another facility, or the residency status is unclear. The ability to collaborate on an equal footing is also often an issue requiring constant renegotiation. 

Even projects that focus more on cultural exchange and less on an artistic outcome should begin with personal contact in refugee accommodations - with the management, with the social workers, as well as with representatives of the facilities. While there is often primarily a need for social engagement, cultural projects are also desired (sometimes more, sometimes less) by employees and refugees in the institutions. 

There is often a high demand for (athletic, communicative, and, indeed,) cultural offerings. This demand can be specified in the facilities: at what times and in what rooms these offerings can be presented, whether interpreters and social workers can support the offerings, how people present in the facilities can be invited, etc. 
It is important that the projects can be presented at the agreed times with high reliability and regularity, even if no such guarantee can be given for the attendance of the people in the facilities - turnover rates are sometimes high. 
Volunteer work by people engaged in the cultural sector can be a starting point for the initiation of projects. However, the option to pay participants offers added security for everyone involved and creates a basis for quality assurance.

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Where can I find funding opportunities?

There are various funding opportunities for projects that help integrate refugees. Additional funds have been set up – by both public and private foundations and ministries – in response to the increasing number of refugees in Germany. 

You will find some of them in the following list, to which further funds are continually being added:

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Are refugee artists and creatives permitted to receive remuneration or an allowance for participation in a project?

Depending on their residency status, refugees may take up employment. Generally, it should be clarified whether the artists or creatives are participating in the projects as freelancers or whether they are employed such that social security contributions are mandatory. 

Information on employment in cases of residence for reasons of international law, humanitarian, or political reasons, as well as in the case of persons with exceptional leave to remain and asylum seekers can be found in the “Beschäftigung ausländischer Arbeitnehmerinnen und Arbeitnehmer in Deutschland” (“Employment of Foreign Workers in Germany”) leaflet (in German only) provided by the Federal Employment Agency.

Additional information about opportunities and conditions for refugees accessing the labor market is provided by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees: and the GGUA Flüchtlingshilfe e. V., an aid association for refugees (in German only).

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What insurance coverage do participants have?

If artists or creatives volunteer, they can often be registered as volunteers by the project supporters or the institutions with which they are cooperating and are then insured through their membership of an employer’s liability insurance association.

Further useful information on the subject of insurance is provided by Stiftung Warentest (a German consumer organization), information in German can be found here.

Self-employed artists and creatives must obtain appropriate insurance coverage independently as part of their work. Relevant information can be found at in the section insurance of persons.

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Do I have to pay royalties on any music I use?

Royalties must be paid whenever a project uses music that is subject to royalties. Basic information can be found at in the section collecting societies; additional information is available on the GEMA website (in German only).

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