Recently listening to the “Rural Vision Week” conference, I found that there was a lack of discussion on how to attract new diversified professions and correspondingly educated people to fulfill these jobs in rural areas. Realizing that the purpose of the event was to involve the momentary rural stakeholders into an EU policy generating process, this was understandable. Still, it is an omission not to consider migration and not to include the demands of potential newcomers in the process.

Coming from a background of international business development for private sector companies, I mostly look for Unique Selling Points (USPs) or…


Watching the daily misery of migrants being smuggled, the situation at the refugee camps, and pushbacks at European borders, I think that it is high-time to supplement this negative publicity with a positive narrative. If we are aiming to control irregular migration, well-functioning legal alternatives must be created. Only after doing so, we can start focusing on properly redirecting asylum seekers. Therefore, as an alternative, I propose to increase the number of publicly funded resettlements which are based on UNHCR’s criterion of a “Lack of Foreseeable Alternative Durable Solutions”. It implies to not only resettle the most vulnerable refugees, but…


Looking back on 2020, it was a year of disruption. Suddenly many borders closed and not only refugees but almost everyone started to seek a safe haven for themselves. Sadly, inequalities between privileged and disadvantaged people became painfully visible. Fortunately, the importance and awareness of the need for solidarity also resurfaced. Since Refival’s frameworks target the inclusion of vulnerable people and the development of deprived areas, its proposals became more relevant than ever. Part of Refival’s focus is on rural revitalization. Small village communities in Europe have a lot to offer to their residents. They are generally rich in cultural…


A time bomb is ticking for the 6 million Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries of Syria. With political initiatives on the way to organize their “voluntary return” and with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan in turmoil, they may get trapped and feel forced to escape “illegally” to Europe.

Although Europe absorbed about 1 million Syrian refugees from 2011–2017, in 2019 it received only 75,000 people, which is less than the number of Syrian babies born in Turkey during that year. Since the new EU migration pact proposal targets to further reduce or stop irregular migration, there is an urgent need…


This week’s European Commission proposal for a “pact on migration and asylum” focuses mostly on stemming irregular migration at EU borders. It thus largely forgets to address Europe’s share in responsibility for the millions of refugees who cannot show up to ask for asylum there. A second “resettlement pact” is therefore urgently required to relieve pressure from countries like Turkey, Lebanon and many others, which currently take care of an unevenly high number of displaced people. Voluntarily relocating more refugees does not have to be a burden for Europe, it can actually create great synergy.

A strong reduction of the…


A strong reduction of the share of agriculture in the economy and a lack of viable job alternatives for young people has left many smaller rural European communities depopulating and aging. To establish a new equilibrium, powerful diversification to non-agricultural activities is required. Meanwhile, Internet-based work options and tele-services offer such potential to stop and reverse rural decline, but without a next generation of people grabbing these opportunities, the current deterioration will continue.

Since 2015, Refival has therefore been exploring the synergy between rural revitalization and refugee integration. As a result, it advocates the interconnection of two groups of people…


Looking at the European agenda, controlling migration is still considered a high-ranking topic; there is an unchanged pressure to further reduce the number of arrivals to the European Union. Currently, differences in the presence of asylum seekers between EU member states are huge. Greece, Italy and Spain, the few countries where most refugees arrive, are unable to provide adequate aid to all people showing up at their borders. This is the main reason why many refugees do not want to stay there and, instead, try to continue their journey to a small number of destination countries such as Germany and…


Stumbling upon lockdowns and closed facilities in the past few months, it became even harder than usual to seek shelter for displaced people. Around 60% of asylum seekers encounter traumatic events before, during, or following arrival, while the occurrence of clinically relevant psychological distress is 20–30%. Just for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), refugees are up to 10 times more likely to develop this condition compared to the general population of their host countries. Therefore, our action to protect and help them is urgently needed. Processing trauma is the key to the successful integration of refugees and a prerequisite for…


As a response to my previous “we are all refugees now” newsletter, I have received a number of requests to elaborate on what distinguishes Universal Basic Employment (UBE) from Universal Basic Income (UBI). This article is thus about addressing labor market disruption and unsustainability. It describes a possible social solution for the more than one in six young people worldwide, who have currently stopped working due to the Covid-19 crisis, but is equally relevant for the ongoing 4th Industrial and Artificial Intelligence Revolution, which will bring structural change to jobs and job offers for most of us. What is UBE…


Everybody is at the moment looking for a safe haven. Consequently, I have been reflecting on the past 5 years in which I developed several solutions for refugees. My preliminary conclusion is that Refival’s three-step approach of shelter, adaptation and participation can add great value to address the current much wider crisis. To begin with, we will first need to do the obvious, namely to stop spreading the virus and take all necessary measures to avoid preventable infections and deaths by sheltering into isolation. We need to physically distance ourselves whilst providing social support to anyone in need. Our forced…

Johannes C. van Nieuwkerk

Concept & Strategy Developer, Initiator at Refival.org

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