Seven positive refugee stories to give you hope

Evan Bartlett@ev_bartlett
Tuesday 01 September 2015 17:50

On Tuesday morning it emerged that 11,000 people in Iceland had offered to house refugees in response to a Facebook campaign from a local author.

The Icelandic government is only obliged to take 50 refugees according to a quota system it has signed up to, a figure which many people clearly believe should be increased.

But the kind gesture from the Icelandic people isn't the only heartwarming story of those attempting to combat the anti-immigration rhetoric which seems to dominate debate across the continent.

Borussia Dortmund invite 220 refugees to a match

The football club, from Germany's top flight, invited 220 refugees to watch their game against Norwegian side Odds Ballklubb last Thursday.

The gesture, as part of the "angekommen" initiative which helps people settle in Germany, caught particular attention for because it involved more refugees than the number of Syrians who have been invited through the British government's official refugee relocation scheme.

While Germany still has elements of far-right anti-immigration sentiment, many of the country's football clubs have been showing pro-refugee banners in recent months.

German pair launch website to help people host refugees in their home

Picture: Jean-Paul Pastor Guzmán/Flüchtlinge Willkommen/Lars van den Brink

Last November, Mareike Geiling and her housemate Jonas Kakoschke launched RefugeesWelcome, a website which pairs homeowners in Germany with refugees they can then host.

The pair had been planning to move to Cairo and decided to house a refugee while they were away, funding it through "micro-donations" from family and friends.

"The one problem is that I think the conversation is often had about refugees, but their voices aren't heard in the debate. Consequently they are often generalised in a way that their diversity of needs and cultures," Geiling told

Their trial run went so well that they decided to launch the website, with a sister service launching in Germany and others planned in the Netherlands, Greece and Portugal.

The hashtag #RefugeesWelcome has also gained increasing popularity at recent demonstrations and online across Germany in response to anti-immigration protests by far-right groups.

Couple spend millions on their own boat to help refugees in the Mediterranean

While political leaders argue over what can be done about people crossing the Mediterranean, Christopher Catrambone, from the US, and his wife Regina Catrambone, from Italy, decided to fork out for a 131ft former fishing vessel.

The 'Phoenix' costs about £300,000 a month and they have spent millions on the project, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).

They have rescued migrants from conflict zones including Gaza, Syria, Somalia, and Eritrea.“We will be there,” they promised earlier this summer. “But we’re only one boat. The EU must launch a credible search and rescue operation. These people are dying at Europe’s door.”

Woman pays for refugee's train journey

As the Independent's Tony Paterson reported back in July:

A Deutsche Bahn ticket collector caught up with a young North African refugee travelling without ticket and money.

The ticket collector and his railway official colleagues encircled him and, shouting, told him that as soon as the train arrived at the next station he would be arrested.

A fellow passenger, Rina Nentwig, intervened. Leaving her seat, she went up and offered to pay the ticketless traveller’s missing €131.50 (£93) rail fare.

Her example turned out to be one that other passengers were keen to follow. Within seconds of returning to her seat she was approached by a woman who handed her a €10 note.

Another woman did the same. Then a man who called her an “Angel” gave her €20. That was followed by a young woman who said she was sorry that she couldn't spare more than €5.

Greek tourist shares touching picture of the moment she saved a Syrian refugee

Sandra Tsiligeridu spotted a 28-year-old Syrian refugee, Mohamed, floating near the island of Pserimos.

The man had become separated from the raft he was travelling in after diving in the sea to save an oar that had been lost overboard in stormy weather.

After more than 13 hours at sea he was half-conscious, clinging to a lifejacket which his family had thrown to him.

Tsiligeridu wrapped Mohamed in blankets and cuddled him all the way back to port in Kos where his family were waiting for him.

"He grabbed my hand and said ‘thank you'," Tsiligeridu explained afterwards. "That ‘thank you’ is something I will personally never forget."

Turkish couple spend their wedding day feeding 4,000 Syrian refugees

As's Bethan McKernan reported in August, a Turkish couple getting married in the town of Kilis decided to help some of the thousands of Syrian refugees who had fled from across the border nearby.

The groom's father, Ali Üzümcüoğlu, who originally had the idea to share a bit of wedding joy with those less fortunate, told us:

I thought that sharing a big delicious dinner with our family and friends was unnecessary, knowing that there are so many people in need living next door.

So I came up with this idea and shared it with my son. I’m very happy that he accepted it and they started their new happy journey with such a selfless action.

More: Yvette Cooper's powerful speech on the refugee crisis has won her a lot of support

More: Greek tourist shares touching picture of the moment she saved a Syrian refugee