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New start with a transportable skill

Haare frisieren
It doesn't get more practical than this: a view of the hairdressing workshop

"I always wanted to be a hairdresser," says Sivan. He even worked in a barber's shop when he was in Iraq. Now he's leaning over a plastic head with female features and long hair. The hair is still blonde, but Sivan is dyeing it darker strand by strand. He has been in Germany for 11 months now, where he's learning a very different side to the art of hairdressing. Having his own salon in Iraq – for both men and women – is his dream.

Karina is 33 years old, and also intends to open her own salon. She is currently styling the hair of another woman taking part in the course, and is getting tips from Hannah Fudala about how to create a neat shape by graduating the hair as she cuts it. Fudala is a master hairdresser, and leads the training offered by the Duisburg District Craft Trades Association. The hairdressing salon, in which eight young people are applying dye and handling scissors and hairdryers, is located on the first floor of a training facility in Dinslaken. One floor below, there are women from Nigeria pottering about in the kitchen along with young men from Kosovo.

Painting and wallpapering is another course which is also very much in demand.

Training with a certificate

Most course participants already suspect or know that they don't have any long-term prospects in Germany. They can stay temporarily, but their asylum application has been rejected. This means they have to confront the issue of what to do when they return to their home countries. This is where the "Returning to New Opportunities" programme run by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) comes in. Returnees shouldn't land back in Iraq, Nigeria or Kosovo without any assistance or a realistic plan, but rather should take with them knowledge and skills that genuinely give them a chance at a new start. This also includes a certificate. Those who complete the four-month training scheme and have been taught by a master may call themselves an "assistant" in the relevant sector.

Anyone who can paint and wallpaper professionally has good job opportunities in countries like Nigeria.

The young men from Nigeria on the ground floor of the training facility want to become painting and decorating assistants, and learn how to create colour progressions with clean edges on walls papered with woodchip. "Wallpapering is particularly popular. That's because it's only the upper classes in Nigeria who can afford wallpaper on their walls," explains Manjola Kola, who leads the project on behalf of the District Craft Trades Association. This means that anyone who can neatly hang wallpaper will have an easier time getting a better-paid job in Nigeria.

"Doing something that makes sense"

Since 2018, over 250 migrants or refugees without any prospect of staying in Germany have completed a training course at the Duisburg District Craft Trades Association's training facility. The District Craft Trades Association is in this case partnered with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), which organises the "Returning to New Opportunities" programme.

Haare waschen an Puppen üben
Practice on the living object – or on mannequins.

"A major part of what we do here involves social work," says Manjola Kola. "Many refugees find it really helpful to get away from the camp and do something worthwhile." They have a clear structure to their day here. The course lasts from 09:00 to 15:00 – including lunch in the in-house canteen, where the participants from different nationalities have a rota for preparing meals. "This way they can also share a bit of their culture and their way of life," adds Kola. On this autumn day there is a snack from Nigeria: flatbreads, fried in a pan with a little oil and topped with a mixture of lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. The group of nearly 30 people sits together in the courtyard to eat.

A lot of the participants make long journeys to attend the training course. This doesn't surprise Kola, because she believes the project offers them a genuine opportunity: "We have young people here who live from one tolerated stay permit to the next and can't do anything about it – they can't work or start a family. Many of them realise at some point that they can learn something here to build a future for themselves." Not in Germany, but in their country of origin – with new opportunities.

As of: 10/2020

People shouldn't land back in their home country without any assistance or a realistic plan, but instead they should take with them knowledge and skills that genuinely give them a chance at a new start.

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