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Ten ways to improve the life of refugees

12 October 20163 comments

The top ten best ideas that improve life for refugees have been identified and commended by a European not-for-profit organisation.

Danish charity INDEX: Design to Improve Life has come up with a list of innovative designs created in the past few years that use everyday materials or skills to better the lives of some of the world’s 65 million displaced people.

“The refugee crisis is one of epic proportion that will require time and a series of far-reaching global efforts to solve. But, we can all make a difference right now by developing and supporting temporary solutions to help the displaced,” INDEX says.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a number of incredible designs to improve life for refugees – some are already making a big impact and others have great potential,” the group said.

Here are the top ten ideas…

‘Better Shelter’ housing unit

ten-ten-designsCurrently making a huge difference in Greece and other locations, the ‘Better Shelter’ housing unit is a temporary home of proven quality. The shelter offers safer and much more comfortable living for users than many other shelters currently used, and can be produced in high volumes at very low cost. Its modular design was developed in conjunction with real users and meets the social and cultural needs of the inhabitants.

Welcome Suitcase

Featured at New York Design Week, the Welcome Suitcase is a solution designed by a class of Danish school children aged six to eight. The empathy-driven design is a small suitcase containing handmade games, folding books and puppets for role-play; all made to help refugee children learn the local language in a fun and interactive way.


Millions of displaced people lose touch with their families and friends when they’re forced to flee their homes amid war and destruction. To help reunite broken communities, Refunite is a web and mobile phone system that allows refugees to create and search profiles to find their loved ones. It allows users to not only search using general information, such as name or date of birth, but with also identifying and more personalised characteristics. Refunite have already assisted with over nine million searches.

Lifehacket Trio

As more and more refugees make the perilous journey across the sea, thousands upon thousands of lifejackets are piling up on Greek and Italian beaches. Lifehacket Trio is a brilliant design that repurposes these discarded lifejackets into a trio of useful products for refugees and irregular migrants. It includes a backpack for storing life’s essentials, a pillow made from used foam inserts and a simple belt to make ill-fitting trousers fit.


Upon arrival in a new country, understanding your rights and finding a way to apply for asylum is often a complex and difficult task. Meshwar is a mobile app that aims to make this process much easier by providing a forum where refugees can ask each other—and experts—questions about the new society or the asylum cases. Refugees can also give feedback in the app so local governments know what immigration processes and facilities need improvement.


Refugees often end up in camps where democracy is still limited, that’s why Refu.rendum wants to empower them with more choices when it comes to their living conditions. With the app and online platform, refugees are able to vote on what a camp needs—from better sanitation facilities to more playgrounds for children.


We all have different skills that have great potential to help those in need. Techfugees, now with over 2,000 members, is a tech-savvy community using their knowledge and networks to tackle the refugee crisis. Their international non-profit events are designed to bring tech engineers, entrepreneurs, startups, NGOs and other agencies together in an effort to generate practical tech-based solutions to help refugees.

Wearable Shelter

Many fleeing war-torn nations arrive to safer shores with nothing more than the clothes on their back. To provide immediate aid, design students from the Royal College of Art in London have created a coat for refugees that can be reconfigured into a tent or a sleeping bag. It’s large enough to fit an adult and one child and can be quickly and easily mass produced.

Hex House

The Hex House is another great shelter designed to be affordable, sustainable and easily deployed. But what sets it apart from other emergency shelters is its ‘long-term’ potential – meaning it looks and feels more like a permanent structure.

collapsable-refugee-sheltersCollapsible Refugee Shelters

This concept shelter design includes essential amenities such as a water supply and renewable electricity. The collapsible shelter is comprised of a structural woven fabric that expands to create a private enclosure, which can then be easily contracted again for mobility. The outer fabric absorbs solar energy that is then converted into usable electricity, it also features a water storage tank and a simple drainage system.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Staff Writer