The Restad Gård Refugee Center is located just outside the town of Vänersborg only a short drive from Trollhättan (about an hour if you take the bus). The refugee center is the largest in Sweden currently housing more than 1,500 refugees from Syria and other countries. The center used to be a psychiatric hospital but was re-purposed in 2012 to accommodate the large influx of refugees arriving from abroad. The camp's residents have been placed there by the Swedish government until their asylum applications can be processed which can take up to two years due to the backlog in applications.
Today I met with Mr. Adnan Abdul Ghani to plan what I will be doing for the first week. Adnan is a computer engineer from Syria who fled to Sweden in 2014. He is the Project Manager for Rädda Barnen (Save the Children) and helps coordinate activities for the refugees at the camp. After our meeting. I got a short tour of the refugee center.
The center reminded me of a small college campus. There are numerous brick buildings laid out across an expanse of green lawns on the edge of Sweden's Lake Vänern. The center has dorm buildings, a cafeteria, preschool, and an indoor gym. The dorms typically house four people to a room.
The center is very nice and the residents spend most of their time there. Most refugees have very little money to travel beyond the camp and spend their days in their dorm rooms waiting for asylum and the right to work outside the camp. The center is a temporary living arrangement for them until their application has been processed and a decision had been made to grant them asylum. Otherwise they must return to their country of origin. The camp is only supposed to be for refugees waiting for their applications to be processed. While they live there, the Swedish government provides them food, lodging, and some spending money.
Tomorrow, I will be helping other members of the refugee support group organize and run a trip to a local museum.