Opening conference in Vänersborg

Summary of the conference in Vänersborg:

The aim of the opening conference in Vänersborg is to increase knowledge on integration processes of refugees in Europe through partners’ best practice and by experts on European laws. Identification of common and different issues on the European Agenda for migration and to increase knowledge on EU policies about refugees. Increased sense of ownership to the local community and in the European integration process with the project presentation to local stakeholders.

The conference consisted of presentations and seminars from external actors, best practice exchange between the WIR project partners, Study visits and workgroups.

The conference was held in Villa Herne, on the accommodation and training center for asylum seekers, Restad Gård in Vänersborg. It started with a photo exhibition called “Idomeni, Greece- to this point but No further”, by Mr. Joakim Nywall. The conference carried on with several presentations based on experience with refugees, which are summarized below.


Mr. Ole Guldahl, CEO of Restad Gård, which is an accommodation and training center for asylum seekers.

I was offered to work at Restad Gård and I am running a company that gives education for refugees, where the objectives are meaningfulness. I have worked 15 years abroad for the international red cross. I have helped many people to survive from natural catastrophes and I have long experience working with people in crises. I became the depute of Sweden for the red cross.
Migration has a negative side, but also success, there are both pros and cons. We don’t see Restad Gård as a camp, rather a place to live in and a place to prepare for entry to the Swedish society or to return to the home country. 42-50 % get a denial, which is connected to the Swedish policies to put limits on immigration. High denial of asylum has humanitarian consequences where the argument is that:
-we cannot do more than the rest of the Europe. Right wing policies are developing.
Our objectives: – we offer a variety of activities with focus on language, society, communication technology and work practice.
Reducing integration cost can be done if the integration process has a flying start by starting the integration from the day one arrives. Collaboration- development, government, municipalities and NGO´s.


Mrs. Marianne Barrljung, Red Cross coordinator.

We are retired and volunteers and have been working with several other things with a long working background. I Started 8 years ago and are now focusing on integration issues. Many refugees feel safe when they meet staff from the Red Cross, since they trust the staff. The focus is humanism, no people should be left alone, they are met by respect of the staff. The Government said, “welcome to Sweden”, which we were proud of, over the years people in Vänersborg have done many things to help refugees. A great hope for the future! The municipality, NGO’s, volunteers and churches worked together in the crises. When volunteering one must have joy, every small and large effort make difference.
Why do we do this? Because all people in the world who can should be volunteers, we learn new things, meet wonderful people, being part of a team and to accelerate the process.

We have language cafés, where we talk about Sweden and how things here work. The red cross helps to seek for lost relatives, which is an important job. In 2016 we started a network for youths, giving a SafetyNet. Restad Gård have about 350 young people. We wonder what we can do; find clothes, support, etc.


Mr. Adnan Ghani, Support Group Network- SGN, self-organization & strategic corporation

We saw a challenge among asylum seekers on Restad Gård with housing, long waiting process, criteria for participation in the introduction program, weak reception system, lack of information, exclusion from the society, not being able to live a normal life, lack of possibility to influence their own life situation, loss of hope and ambition; not seeing the light in the end of the tunnel, hierarchical decision making process with no credibility among the target group, lack of co-creation and joint problem identification, not enough cross-sectoral work.

Our story- support and working together for a better future. We started to scan skills and used our skills to help others on the camp. People have educations from their home country. 90 % of our leaders are women, they take the lead. We want people to be proud of them-selves, by presuming their capabilities. We have different clubs; welcome club, women club, education club, academic club, youth club, kids club. In 2016 support group achieved 1356 activities and we got the human right award from Västragötaland Region. Over 500 refugees volunteered with the support groups to organize and lead activities.


Mr. Johan Wullt, European Commission, Stockholm representation

We are 20 people working in Sweden where we talk about policies. We talk about migration and integration policies, since it has been the most important topic. We have 3 central institutions when making policies in the EU; European Commission, European Parliament and the council. The European Council gives the political guidelines.
Europe is and must remain the continent of solidarity, where those fleeing persecution can find refuge. Foreign policy is hybrid, because it is partly done by the EU and partly by the member states.
The EU gives more than 1 billion Euro per year to help refugees and the EU and its member states are the world’s largest donors. We have increased resources to cooperate with others around the Mediterranean Sea and borders. Strengthening the common European asylum system: A new Dublin regulation, of qualification, how do you value asylum application and when should they be able to enter the labor market?
The blue card system is criticized. Promoting a new European policy on legal migration. Blue card work permits issued in EU member states. How can migrants enter the EU legally? Family reunification, work and study/ researchers or training, are subjects that are discussed.


Professor Ravi Kohli, University of Bedfordshire, UK, integration for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

How do I bring him or her back to ordinary life? Over the last 18 years I have worked with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and refugee children, some of whom were trafficked. I want to see children be safe, to belong to someone, somewhere, and to be successful in their lives.
We live in liquid times where migration is a form of “human global warming”.
It becomes important to identify the borders of the word “we” and “them” in such liquid times.
“We” are re-defining ourselves in liquid times, and therefor are re-defined “them”. How we talk about “them” tells us something about “us”.

Working with unaccompanied children in a complex world:

  • We step towards someone who needs help.w
  • We step into complexity and look at and beyond simple positions of good and bad.
  • We try to rebuild lives within borders that breath, where diversity has a happy life.

We use frameworks that offer life, and a chance to live an ordinary life.

Good practice gives good policy: Dignity, time, safety, home, a passport, sustainability, ordinariness, success, companionship, belonging and trust.


Mrs. Maria Holmbom, Development officer, Vänersborg Municipality “Trauma informed Care”

Agenda: Trauma and our brain, Transforming Care with a framework for understanding, The window of tolerance, Co-regulation.
The circle of courage is used by Transforming care to describe our universal growth needs as children and youth. The most significant consequence of early trauma is the child’s failure to develop the capacity to self-regulate the intensity and duration of emotional states. The bad news is that traumatized children reset their normal level of arousal. Even when no external threats exist, they are in a constant state of alarm. While the good news is that we can help these children. There is no such thing as a difficult child, but there are children who are in difficulty!
The 3 pillars are: Safety, Connections and Coping!
The tools are: Language is power, Be curious and look behind the behavior, Explain to remove shame and blame, The window of tolerance, Co-regulation, Patience. We can make a difference!


Programme of opening conference in Vänersborg


Welcome and integration process in Vänerbsorg

Overview on welcome and integration process – Alicante

Overview on welcome and integration process – Finland

Overview on welcome and integration process – Austria

Overview on welcome and integration process – Daugavpils

Overview on welcome and integration process – Kreis Offenbach

Overview on welcome and integration process – Ravenna

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