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Digital street workers

Laura Sajeva from La Red e.V., the Berlin-based migrant organisation, explains in the interview how the association uses social media to provide counselling on recognition.

How does the La Red migrant organisation support migrants when they arrive in Germany?

Laura Sajeva: “La Red – Vernetzung und Integration e.V.”, the migrant-led networking and integration organisation – part of Network IQ Berlin, has been active since 2013. La Red helps recent immigrants from across the world with professional and social integration in Germany. Our offer is free of charge and includes advice, seminars and workshops on topics such as labour market integration, employment and social law and the residency process. We also run projects, for example on political participation, education and training and environmental education. Our staff come from a range of different countries and speak Arabic, Polish, Spanish and many other languages. 

You also provide counselling on the recognition of foreign professional qualifications and are very active on social media. What is the background?

Laura Sajeva: With over 9,000 followers, La Red is one of the biggest online communities of migrants in Germany. Our advisers have found that, on social media, lots of immigrants are interested in recognition. However, their questions often go unanswered or the responses from other users are misleading. Incorrect information is actually circulating in some cases. We therefore felt it was important to begin providing professional information activities and carrying out advisory work on social media. We are essentially digital street workers supporting the integration and assisting in the guidance of recent immigrants. 

Which platforms do you use and how do you identify your target group on these platforms? 

Laura Sajeva: We have chosen Facebook as the main channel for our online activities. We are active here in around 90 groups with more than 500,000 members in total. In the main we identify the target groups by region of origin and occupation. Examples of groups include “Argentinos en Berlin”, “Syrer in Berlin” or “Medicos Latinoamericanos en Berlin”. The advisers answer questions in these groups, take part in discussions and use information to encourage debate. In order to reach the target group, we provide advice and information in their respective native languages.

How exactly does the online counselling work? For example, is advice provided in private chats or publicly in groups?

Laura Sajeva: Traditional recognition counselling requires the sharing of personal data. Advisory work on social media is subject to strict data privacy restrictions. This means the online work is limited to identifying questions in Facebook groups and responding to these with general information. At the end of this we invite people to attend a traditional initial counselling session in the IQ counselling centres. This means that all data protection standards can be guaranteed. 

Which questions concerning recognition are discussed on social media?

Laura Sajeva: Lots of skilled workers in the medical sector who have completed their training outside the EU want to talk to people who have already successfully completed the recognition procedure. They have questions about adaptation periods and about the technical language tests. Skilled workers from the EU, for example, are looking for sworn translators. Other questions concern whether recognition is needed in specific occupations, who the competent authority is, and which documents are needed. 
 
What are the advantages of providing counselling on social media?

Laura Sajeva: Outreach counselling on social media is ideal for providing initial guidance to recent immigrants. This also allows new issues to be identified to support the counselling provided. In this way the social platforms are supporting the traditional ways of providing counselling. However, they cannot replace these.

How has the traditional counselling on recognition changed since the start of the online work? And how will this continue in the future?

Laura Sajeva: Statistical data shows that our activities on social media have resulted in an increase in numbers receiving advice. Recently we extended our offer on Facebook to the English-speaking community in Berlin. Currently we are also testing out the potential for recognition counselling on the LinkedIn and Instagram platforms.

 

The interview with Laura Sajeva took place in August 2021. Laura Sajeva has been an adviser at La Red e.V. for the Italian community since 2019.

Important information on the responsibility for, and details on, the recognition procedure are available in the Profi-Filter and Recognition Finder in this portal.