Design Column #11 Migration Matters features practical solutions and innovative concepts for dealing with the refugee crisis.
What is often overlooked is that no fewer than nine out of ten refugees end up in economically less developed countries and regions. Nonetheless, streams of migrants are placing increasing pressure on the European system. This is tangible not only in countries on the periphery of Europe; in Calais too the situation is precarious. This problem needs to be addressed at EU level. However, despite hours of debate on 25 and 26 June, the EU failed to reach a binding agreement on a quota system for absorbing 60,000 refugees among the member states. The only agreement reached was on the voluntary intake of refugees.
Meanwhile the humanitarian crisis continues to grow. In the past eighteen months at least 4200 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. In the first half of 2015 alone French police intercepted 18,170 people attempting to travel to the United Kingdom: four times the total number in 2013. The situation will become all the more harrowing this summer with the annual mass migration of European holidaymakers seeking a lazy few weeks on a beach – the same beaches on which refugees will land in an attempt to save their lives.
Richard van der Laken, founder and director of the design conference What Design Can Do, recently called upon designers to contribute ideas to help refugees. He doesn’t claim that designers can solve this vast and complex problem but he is convinced that designers can play a part in each phase of the refugee’s journey.
Ideas that make a difference
Every three months the Design Column focuses on a news item in the form of a small exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The column is a place where new ideas are made visible, where the power of imagination is given expression. Designers and artists are especially interested in experimental imagination. With their idiosyncratic vision, they see things differently and are capable of bringing about change. The Design Column creates a space for these innovative concepts.
Pim van der Mijl, Front Room, 2015
The integration of asylum seekers mostly takes places behind closed doors, resulting in little contact with Dutch residents. This is why designer Pim van der Mijl invited a few inhabitants of the asylum seekers center in Onnen to design a meeting place in the middle of the local community; in the center of Onnen. Van der Mijl assessed the various skills of the inhabitants and together they explored ways in which they themselves could help shape this meeting place. The result is the Front Room: a space in which the asylum seekers are able to host their Dutch neighbors in order to get acquainted with each other. Van der Mijl wishes to distill a method from this project, thus making it possible for this initiative to be duplicated at other locations.