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Published: 11 Apr, 2018

The living situation for young refugees – Democracy and Architecture at Umeå School of Architecture

NEWS The living situation for young refugees was discussed at Umeå School of Architecture when a seminar with the theme Democracy and Architecture was organized with the organization Arezo on March 28. The initiative came from the bachelor project of architect student Gabriella Magnusson and the seminar was arranged and implemented together with the department leadership and staff at Umeå School of Architecture.

Democracy and architecture is a lecture theme this spring. Foto: Matilda Svensk.

The seminar began with a lecture by representatives from the organization Arezo, which is a local network working to improve the living situation for young refugees through social engagement.

– The time during the asylum process is uncertain and in Umeå we have young people who after two years are still waiting for a decision on their cases. When they turn 18 they no longer have the right to live in any of Umeå Municipality’s accommodations for refugee children, and have to move to an available accommodation somewhere in Sweden, at the Migration Agency’s accommodation for adults. When they move to a new municipality they lose their home, their community and the network they have built. The purpose of Arezo is to create opportunities for these young refugees to stay in Umeå during the whole asylum process. By building a social infrastructure on a local level, Arezo can work with human rights where other systems fail, says Gunilla Grenholm, coordinator at Arezo.

Gunilla Grenholm gave, together with Nils Rådström from the Red Cross, a good view on how to work as an organization through local initiatives, how an organization without hierarchy can be structured and how you can work with volunteers as an employee at such an organization. Gunilla Grenholm also explained how economical support from Umeå Municipality have changed the organization and enabled Arezo to be able to find families for 70 young people in Umeå.

Jafar Nazari who has received a place to stay through the network concluded the lecture and talked about the long and often dangerous journey from Kabul, Afghanistan to Umeå in Sweden. The audience got a clear insight of the obstacles refugees has overcome to get all the way to Sweden and the fate that met the many who did not.

The lecture opened up for the following talk about the correlation between architecture and the current situation for young refugees in Umeå.

– We live in a democratic society and we need to understand what it means to act in a democratic way. As architects we need to take on the different subjects that take place in the physical space, for example migration that takes its place both locally and globally. You cannot distinguish between the physical and the social in society, says Marie Kraft, architect and tutor at Umeå School of Architecture.

Nils Rådström pointed out that the politics regarding migration and integration has changed during the last couple of years, and that it affects the city planning on a local level. Gunilla Grenholm raised the issue of the claim from Socialstyrelsen stating that every child under the age of 17 need to have their own bedroom, which means that a family need to have a spare bedroom to be able to welcome a young refugee into their home. She questioned if the lack of housing for young refugees is a real housing crisis or if it due to the formulation of the law.

Next democracy and architecture lecture:

The theme democracy and architecture will continue during the spring. There will be a lecture already on Wednesday April 25 by Ario Racho, who began his studies in Aleppo and is now an architect student at Umeå School of Architecture. He will talk about the critical moments in the Syrian war and how it affected the every-day and future of the students at his university, University of Aleppo. The lecture will be held in the Auditorium at Umeå School of Architecture, Wednesday April 25 at 13.30. Students, staff and the public is welcome!

Read more about Umeå School of Architecture

Text: Emelie El-Habta

Editor: Ingrid Söderbergh