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    Refugees who seek asylum in a host country are limited in their possibilities. Designers excel in finding creative solutions and opportunities within given limitations. They are also great collaborators, accustomed to tackling complex situations together. Given the complexity of the refugee crisis, our primary question is What Design Can Do?

    In shaping the challenge brief, extensive desk and field research was undertaken to identify the issues which experts and refugees alike say urgently require attention. These results were used to map and better understand the refugee journey.

    After arriving in a country, refugees embark on a journey that involves their claim for asylum status, its granting or refusal, possible appeals and final refusals, or application for citizenship. Along the way they encounter countless challenges, the most important of which are outlined in the following five briefings where designers can make a difference.


    Big emergency shelters are struggling to accommodate all the refugees arriving in Europe today. Refugees live in crowded conditions and face a lack of privacy, often for months, if not more than a year. Often there is little interaction between such centres and the host communities around them. This is a missed opportunity for quick integration.

    Can we imagine a shelter that is an asset for both refugees and the local population?

    The asylum procedure basically tells refugees to do nothing but wait. This waiting causes great stress as the months go by as refugees and their children are forced to kill time in shelters. This lost time could be used more effectively by starting the process of integrating into the new society. How can refugees continue to develop personally during this waiting period despite all the imposed limitations?  

    One of the major obstacles to acceptance and integration between host communities and refugees is the limited or distorted understanding of the values important in each other’s cultures. So how can we create better connections between cultures? 

    From creating activities or spaces where people can meet, to devising communication campaigns and experiences that build empathy, designers can find ways to reveal prejudices and stigmas, and address these on rational as well as emotional levels.

    Governments, bottom-up volunteer initiatives and NGO programmes try to communicate essential information about laws and procedures. However, such information reaches refugees more or less randomly, making it difficult for them to obtain accurate, clear and relevant information about their rights and available services. 

    Designers are good at packaging complex, dynamic information into understandable and accessible communication. How can we improve communication from refugees?

    A large proportion of refugees are highly educated and possess valuable skills. However, this is not reflected in the integration of refugees who have been granted asylum in the labour market, where participation is still low. 

    Designers excel at uncovering and tapping the potential that lies beyond the obvious opportunities that most people see. What could these contributions mean in the host country?