“In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” —Eleanor Roosevelt, first Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which created the Universal Declaration on Human Rights
According to data provided by the European Commission, currently there are around 65 million people that were forced to leave their homes. Slightly more than half of them are children. Every fourth persons that applied for asylum in the European Union member states during 2015 and 2016 was a child, while 96 thousand of children that sought asylum were unaccompanied minors. Reports of UNHCR, Human Rights Watch and Are You Serious?, dating at the beginning of 2017, showed repeated unlawful and violent expulsion of refugees out of the territory of Republic of Croatia and, thus, a clear violation of the right to seek international protection.
In order to raise awareness regarding the status and position of refugees, the World Refugee Day is celebrated on the 20th of June each year.
With an aim of giving its contribution to increasement of visibility of the position of refugees in Croatia, and within the fourth Tjedan IZBJEGLICAma project (Refugee Week), on Tuesday, 20th June 2017, Rehabilitation Center for Stress and Trauma (RCT), in cooperation with Center for research of fashion and clothing (CIMO), held an exhibition of needlepoint handcrafts. The handcrafts were made during workshops on therapeutic embroidery with asylum seekers in Kutina and Zagreb. The exhibition was held in Kino Europa in Zagreb, where 14 chosen crafts — handmade by combining traditional embroidery skills and contemporary motives — were displayed. The exhibition was opened by introduction speech of the president of RCT, Valentina Zeljak Božović, and program coordinator Dragana Knezić, with simultaneous translation to Arabic. After that introduction of several handcraft authors who attended the workshop followed. Ruba Khouri, one of the RCT employees, provided translation from Croatian to Arabic and vice-versa.
The handcrafts were made as a part of a project called “Kreacija, afirmacija, integracija: poticanje integracije osoba pod međunarodnom zaštition kroz razvijanje zanatskih vještina mikroproizvodnje” (“Creation, affirmation, integration: facilitating integration of persons under international protection trough development of handcrafts micro-production”). The project was implemented by RCT in cooperation with CIMO and co-financed by Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy. Professor Tonči Vladislavić lead the workshop and mentored participants, along with Ivana Čuljak and Lea Vene who, as members of CIMO, were included in carrying out this project. The workshops were from 24th of November 2016 to 4th of May 2017. Workshops were held every week in centers for asylum seekers in Kutina and Zagreb, which makes 24 of them in total. Thirty five beneficiaries were participating in Kutina and fifty six of them in Zagreb. The participants have various backgrounds – they are coming from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Turkey, 80% of them are women and 20% men, while in age they vary from 7 to 61 years.
The first public introduction to the results of the Workshop was held between 13th and 18th June 2017 at the Design District manifestation, in the vacancy of a former military hospital in Vlaška 87 in Zagreb. The goals of the workshops, in addition to the therapeutical effect on the participants, were to create spaces for communication and socialization while exchanging cultural practices. Every goal that is reached marked a step forward in the path to integration. According to data provided by Ministry of Internal Affairs, 2230 asylum seekers were registered during 2016, which is around 2000 more requests in comparison to 2015. These data can guide us to a conclusion that, in current situation, introduction of spaces for communication and intercultural exchange are in the same time key elements and preconditions of integration and for creation of a healthy and productive community.