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Handcrafting: employment, art and therapy

According to the newest report of the international research project NIEM (The National Integration Evaluation Mechanism ) vocational training presents one of the diverse dimensions of effective and long-term integration of beneficiaries of international protection in a new environment.

As soon as migration and, especially, long-lasting and burdensome waiting-period for the decision on protection can negatively effect on physical and psychological well-being of the person,  vocational education and training have positive impact on empowering people to take advantage of employment opportunities or preparing them for self-employment. Ability to work allows refugees and asylum seekers to achieve economic independence, support families, feel more confident as a member of a new community.

There are various interesting solutions and examples of courses and workshops elaborated by social and migrant organisations and less formal initiatives. Handcrafting is one of such examples -  it combines learning and acquisition of skills but also includes expression of unique traditions, individual imagination and artistic sensitivity. As the head of the initiative the Love Welcomes (workshop currently operating near Athens in Greece) said to InfoMigrants “providing something for them [refugee and asylum seeking women] to do every day, and providing employment, empowerment and learning was key for the women to recover from their traumas and regain a sense of worth.” The model of Love Welcomes is based on peer-to-peer learning process what means that women teach each others their skills. One of the projects elaborated by women concerned upcycling lifejackets form the  shores of the Greek island. From this material women sewed doormats. The project also has its symbolic meaning, turning the artefacts of suffering and memories of life-threatening journeys into welcome doormats as symbol of openness and supportiveness. 

The other example of using handcrafting shows the workshop located in the Parisian suburb. Participants of the workshop upcycle used closes and giving them a new meaning - “create fashion pieces from castoff clothes and line” and giving them a new meaning and life . The workshop is coordinated by the French NGO Renaissance, which aims to link social integration projects with education and rising awareness of sustainability and eco-friendly entrepreneurship. 

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency which stands for empowering and enhancing refugee social participation and activity worldwide, provide a project aimed to help refugees achieve economic independence, promoting social and sustainable enterprises among refugees and asylum seekers, includ them into the design industry. The brand MADE51, Market Access Design and Empowerment and 51 is a reference to the 1951 refugee convention,  based in Geneva, was set up by the UN refugee agency UNHCR to connect refugee artisans in Africa, Asia and the Middle East with local social enterprises. Currently  more than 2,700 refugees in 18 countries are involved into the project and cooperate with enterprises.

Kseniya Homel 
NIEM’s National Advocacy Officer
The European and Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs


Crafting a future for refugees [18.08.2020]. 

At a workshop near Paris, migrants train to upcycle used designer clothes [17.08.2020].

MADE51: Connecting social enterprises with refugee craft makers [20.08.2020].

The European benchmark for refugee integration. Evaluation 1: Comprehensive report