The German government has launched a new smartphone app to help asylum seekers integrate in their new country. Known as Ankommen ("Arrive"), the Android app is available for free on the Google Play Store, and will launch on iOS soon, according to its website. Ankommen was jointly developed by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the Federal Employment Agency, the Goethe Institute, and Bayerischer Rundfunk, a public radio and TV broadcaster.
The app is available in Arabic, English, Farsi, French, and German, and does not require an internet connection. It includes a basic German language course, as well as information on the asylum application process and how to find jobs or vocational training. The app also provides information on German values and social customs, with tips from other non-Germans who live in the country.
Germany received more than 1 million asylum seekers last year, with many fleeing war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has adopted an open-door policy for refugees, though the government has come under increased scrutiny after a spate of attacks against women in Cologne on New Year's Eve. More than 500 complaints were filed after the incident, many alleging sexual assault, and 19 suspects have been arrested. Of those, 10 are asylum seekers, the government announced this week. The attacks sparked anti-refugee protests in Cologne and Leipzig over the weekend, and the German government has outlined plans to accelerate deportations for those who break the law.
Several apps have been launched to help refugees integrate in recent months, including one catered specifically to the city of Dresden, which has been a hotbed of anti-migrant protests. Other activists have turned to crowdfunding and other online initiatives to help refugees find housing or jobs. The developers behind Ankommen say the app will be regularly updated to keep pace with changes in policy or other events. Susanne Poelchau, editorial director at Bayerischer Rundfunk, tells Der Tagesspiegel that a section on gender equality was added to the app following the Cologne attacks.