One of the newest hotels to open in Amsterdam is bucking current design trends. The building near the Amsterdam Amstel rail station isn’t chic, boutique, or hi-tech.  However, the Bijlmerbajes wasn’t ever necessarily on trend to begin with when it first opened as a prison in 1978. The detention centre was designed as a humane detention centre without barred windows and secured cell doors. Now, a collaboration of businesses, non-profits, and entrepreneurs are hoping to attract hotel guests to the cell blocks for an alternative night’s stay aimed at helping refugees.

The Bijlmerbajes, which was permanently closed to prisoners in 2016, is now a temporary residence to 600 refugees. The foundation, Movement on the Ground, took an interest in the site after managing projects at refugee camps throughout Europe including supply donations, design improvements, and solar panel installations. Now Movement on the Ground is working to convert 16 remaining Bijlmerbaje cells into hotel rooms and help refugee residents gain training and employment experience in the Netherlands by operating the Movement Hotel Bijlmerbajes. The refugees who work in the hotel are all legally eligible for employment in the Netherlands. This project will train them in a variety of hospitality occupations such as baristas, reception clerks, and guest relations.

The Student Hotel inspiration

A couple of the leading forces behind the project are The Student Hotel CEO Charlie MacGregor and CMO Dylan Ingham. They founded the Movement on the Ground foundation with three other friends and travel companions. The Student Hotel aims to provide co-working and co-living spaces which inspire a community feel for students and young professionals. The philosophy that has made the Student Hotel one of the most successful co-working and co-living brands is evident in the vision for the Movement Hotel. Communal spaces are being carefully curated with work by refugee artists. Additional organisations are stepping in to arrange activities and experiences such as an escape room, social projects, boxing, language cafe and activities for kids. Customers can also already have lunch at “A Beautiful Mess” restaurant, which is operated by The Refugee Company.

The project is all part of Movement on the Ground’s larger initiative, called Camps to CampUS, which follows refugees throughout their journey of becoming settled in a new country. Employment is a major hurdle for refugees during this process. That’s why the foundation said it aims to create job opportunities through the Movement Hotel project and help refugees thrive in their new homes. “We hope to show that big business can play a big role in resettling refugees,” MacGregor said. “Especially hotel companies. We don’t want refugees to remain cut-off, unhappy and angry. It’s better for everyone if they are settled and successful.”

Organisers are raising 50,000 euros through crowd funding to get the project fully operative. The Movement Hotel will open in August and can be booked through the end of the year. Rooms start at 75 euro per night.