Fools: Thousands of volunteers have taken to the internet to offer refugees free shelter
With one million people expected to seek asylum in Europe this year and governments arguing over how to cope, thousands of volunteers are taking to the Internet to offer refugees shelter free of charge.
In France, the Netherlands and other European countries, private individuals are proposing free lodging via Web-based platforms inspired by Airbnb, the home rental venture that has flourished with the rise of smartphones.
Some fear private endeavors may complicate government efforts to direct the refugee flow, or simply prove too short-lived as the strains of sharing a home take their toll.
"It's laudable symbolically but it's not the model favored by the state," said an official at the interior ministry of France, where arrivals are despatched to accommodation centers or state-paid hotel rooms.
But refugees, many of whom relied heavily on mobile phone maps and communications during their journey to Europe from Syria, Iraq or Africa, will find plenty of offers online.
On one Irish website, more than 1,000 people "pledged a bed" for refugees within three hours. In Germany, "Refugees Welcome" offers a matching service to put people with lodgings in touch with refugees.
One French venture, Singa, has registered 10,000 offers of free lodgings since it started up in June and now has 10 volunteers working full time to match refugees with hosts.
"We're overwhelmed. We had no idea there would be such an enthusiastic response," said founder Nathanael Molle. So far, Singa has put 47 refugees in homes around Paris.