Iraq/Syrian Refugees A Syrian mother exchanges an embrace with her son in Kawergosk refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq on 23 March, 2014. It has been just over three years since conflict began in Syria, and the number of Syrian refugees continues to grow. As of this writing, the number of Syrian refugees is set to eclipse the number of Afghans, making Syria the world's largest refugee crisis. Approximately 220,000 people have fled across the Syrian border into neighboring Iraq, the vast majority of them arriving in the country's northern Kurdistan Region - where these photographs were made. Though they may look much older, these images were taken in March and April of 2014. Despite dramatic changes in geopolitics, economy, warfare and technology, the face of the world's ongoing refugee crisis looks much the same as it did years ago. This is a reminder that so long as countries and lives are torn apart by armed conflict, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same.' UNHCR / B. Sokol / April 2014

When technology helps humans to be more… human

Nowadays the world has to face diverse issues that are inevitably changing and affecting the lives of so many people. Wars, catastrophic phenomena, and the list goes on: people must leave their own hometowns, in most of the cases their countries. In the past years, but especially in the last one, a huge and massive move of refugees has been acknowledged to have the status of main priority regarding the issues to be solved.

I was lucky enough to come into the world in a relatively safe country, Italy, and live my first 28 years as human being in a relatively state of peace; when I say relatively, I mean that yes, I haven’t experienced a firsthand situation of danger (whatever it could be), I haven’t fled from my hometown and spending cold winters or hot summers in a tent, trying to queue whenever possible in order to get a piece of bread or having a quick shower. However, can we really say that we live in a peaceful era, according to many the most peaceful era after the end of the WWII?

When I found out the piece of news I’m gonna talking about, I felt good. There still are some kindness, some goodhearted souls that have the means and the knowledge to make something up that is useful for other human beings, in moments imbued with sorrow and grief.


This piece of news is linked to a design award, that is to say the Beazley Design of the Year 2016, given to flat-pack shelters planned to host displaced people, letting them have a safe and comfortable place to live. Behind that, there is a Swedish social enterprise called Better Shelter, whose aim is to give humanitarian assistance as effectively as possible through a key concept: sustainable design. Some years ago, Better Shelter started a partnership with IKEA Foundation and UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) in order to design and plan shelters. Shelters that are innovative: they use recyclable plastic to make them; moreover, these flat-pack shelters are not only suitable for people living in a condition of emergency, but also quite practical: it is possible to assemble them in few hours.

How to cope with crisis as promptly as possible? How to help people and make them live in a shelter capable of giving them a sense of a real home? These were the starting points that have characterized Better Shelter and their partners at the beginning of their adventure. The results, so far, can be summarized by one of the award juror’s words, Jana Scholze:

“Better Shelter tackles one of the defining issues of the moment: providing shelter in an exceptional situation whether caused by violence or disaster. Providing not only a design, but secure manufacture as well as distribution makes this project relevant and even optimistic. It shows the power of design to respond to the conditions we are in and transform them.”

A perfect world doesn’t exist. However, such initiatives and projects as the one I’ve written about in this piece, have the goal to help those people and families by making their sad and sorrowful ‘inner’ world a little bit… perfect.

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An Italian student attending a Master in Communication at the University of Gothenburg. Email me at francescobarbati (at) if you have any doubts or if you are simply curious about Swedish life for students.
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