Advocating for Refugee Policy Change, through Fashion

Advocating for Refugee Policy Change, through Fashion

Advocating for Refugee Policy Change, through Fashion
Nicole Zisman and participant showing the garment customised in the project. Photo by JC Candanedo.

The final work package of the AHRC-funded ‘Decolonising Fashion and Textiles’ (DFT) project focused on advocacy and policy. It aimed at challenging the status quo and empowering refugee and asylum-seeking participants to build connections and voice their concerns for our collective uncertain future, while advocating for positive policy change.  

Following initial desk research, the project team worked closely with the participants to listen to the systemic challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers, and elicit their aspirations for a more equitable and

sustainable future. The process led by Froi Legaspi (Lead Organiser at Citizens UK, and working as Policy Advisor on the DFT project) also entailed three roundtable discussions engaging 38 stakeholders from across the fashion industry, policy makers, and charities working with refugees, with the purpose of advocating for policy change, in and through fashion. This became the starting point for a policy paper and a lobbying campaign.  

First roundtable discussion. Photo by Janhvi Chopra.
First roundtable discussion. Photo by Janhvi Chopra.

Refugees and asylum seekers in the UK face multiple challenges related to housing, safety, mental health, poverty, legal support, access to education and jobs, and so on. However, what emerged as a primary concern was having access to good work which could help put lives back on track and to feel independent and in control. In the context of fashion and this research, we looked at general and specific policy that can benefit both skilled refugees and the UK fashion industry where there is a skills shortage. 

Systems map of challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.
Systems map of challenges faced by refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.

The UK fashion and textile industry has been vocal about the skills shortages and subsequent encouragement for people into a wide variety of jobs, including ‘fashion and footwear manufacturing, dyeing and weaving, leather work, pattern cutting, bespoke tailoring and design and development roles’ (UK Fashion and Textiles Association, UKFT, 2023). Although in this project we advocate for bridging the skills gap within the industry, we do not endorse exploitative practices of overconsumption and overproduction which give rise to unpaid overtime, poor working conditions, and unfair pay.

Instead, we aim for mutually beneficial placements and apprenticeships in line with the UKFT’s stated aspirations where participants can be independent in their pursuit of fashion business and enterprise in the ways best suited to them and their level of skills.

In the research project, we also mapped barriers for refugees and asylum seekers to obtain employment and decent stable jobs. They face systemic discrimination based on where they have come to the UK from and reasons for seeking refuge. Temporary accommodation further hinders their ability to secure stable employment. Efforts to address these issues are fragmented, occurring in silos through Local Councils and charities. Additionally, fashion and textiles jobs are not listed in the UK’s Immigration Salary List.  

We believe the above policy asks would not only contribute to refugees’ wellbeing, financial independence, and social integration but also benefit the UK economy.

As part of this campaign, visual artist and project’s co-investigator Professor Lucy Orta created a Lifeline activation using soft textile objects, crafted in calico fabric, that can be interacted with. Collaborating with project participants, Lifeline were used both at London College of Fashion (LCF) and at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) during Refugee Week as prompts to discuss their lived experiences and the challenges they face upon arrival in the UK, as well as the opportunities to rebuild their life in the place of resettlement. The Lifeline zine has been created in collaboration with participants that took part.  

A page from Lucy Orta’s Lifeline zine. Photos by JC Candanedo.
A page from Lucy Orta’s Lifeline zine. Photos by JC Candanedo.

We invite you to join our call to action to build collective power and shape together a more equitable and sustainable future, in and through fashion. 

We would like to take this opportunity also to invite you to the ‘Shifting Narratives exhibition which will be held at the Barbican Library from 5th to 29th July, with the following free public programme: 

‘Fashioning Stories of Change’ performance at the V&A during Refugee Week. Photo by Asmae el Ouariachi.
‘Fashioning Stories of Change’ performance at the V&A during Refugee Week. Photo by Asmae el Ouariachi.

Come and join us in reflecting on the evolving role of fashion as a vehicle for social change and cultural regeneration, and foregrounding a just transition, especially in light of the current refugee crisis and our collective uncertain future! 


Source link

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *