Credit: Image by A. Aleksandravicius on Shutterstock

The London-based Refugee Journalism Project began in March 2016 to help exiled journalists kick-start their careers in the UK after going through the asylum application process.

It's one of a number of initiatives across Europe set up over the past year to help get refugees who were working journalists in their country of origin back in the newsroom.

In London, the Refugee Journalism Project works with around 30 participants, offering them mentorship from UK-based journalists, access to training courses to learn essentials such as UK media law, and help to secure work experience in media organisations.

A joint initiative from the Migrants Resource Centre and the London College of Communication, the project works with participants from a range of backgrounds, from citizen journalists to reporters with ten or twenty years of experience and journalism degrees.

"The challenges vary depending on the individual," Tessa Hughes, project coordinator, told in a recent podcast.

"A lot of them have already been working in English and have studied in English and are absolutely fluent in English, so it's not necessarily the language barrier.

"The biggest barrier I think is the network, is that they don't understand how the UK system works. In media unfortunately it's a lot about who you know, and they rarely know anyone who's within that sector, so getting that foot in the door can be really difficult."

While many participants have extensive journalism experience abroad, not having been published in the UK before is one of the main barriers to re-entering the industry, which the project hopes to address.

"They also have to deal with all the things that come with moving, when the asylum process can shake people's confidence as well."

The project's mentors have worked for news organisations such as the Guardian, BBC, Vice, and the New Humanist. They offer mentoring sessions to the participants every two weeks, and also help them with pitching and networking.

More than one million asylum claims were made in the European Union in 2015. To help the professional journalists among the refugees, other long-term initiatives and shorter projects started up in countries across Europe.

Swiss newspaper Blick published an edition written by refugees back in September 2015, and the majority of participants were experienced journalists and photographers.

"It was very emotional... because they could work in their profession. Some of them didn't do that for years, it's the first time they've worked at a newspaper once more," editor-in-chief René Lüchinger told

In Germany, a project called Journalists in Exile kicked off at the beginning of July to match refugee journalists with local reporters with a view to provide mentorship and insights into the German media industry.

Organised by Neue Deutsche Medienmacher (New German Media Makers) and Hostwriter, the project also wants to promote diversity in the media and help Berlin's newsrooms become more representative of the area they serve.

Ursula Vosshenrich, an editor at Radio Berlin-Brandenburg, is mentoring Khalid Al Aboud, a radio journalist from Syria. She told in July that the lack of diversity in newsrooms is having an impact on the stories news organisations are able to cover.

"Nowadays we have more journalists from a migrant background – mostly Turkish – but it is still not enough. We really feel it now, when we need to cover the events in Turkey, and don’t have enough journalists who speak Turkish.”

In the UK, Hughes said feedback from news organisation has been positive, with editors accepting pitches from project participants and showing a willingness to get involved.

"People see value in the project but also see value in the participants' experience and the extra knowledge they have that UK journalists might not be able to bring."

Listen to the full interview about the Refugee Journalism Project here.

Do you know of a similar initiative running in your area? Tweet us at @journalismnews.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).