Since 2015 Lesvos Island, Greece has been one of the central points of an unprecedented flow of population movement towards Europe. Especially after the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016, thousands of refugees and migrants were trapped on the island of Lesvos experiencing different forms of exclusion and inhumane living conditions.
The research for more and more substantial ways of supporting this population, together with the constant need to manage and exploit the massive amount of seemingly useless materials (life jackets, boats, plastic-glass bottles, etc.) piled on the coasts of the island, gave birth to the Lesvos Solidarity projects: Safe Passage Bags and Humade Crafts both of them housed in Mosaik Support Center in Mitilini, Lesvos.
Safe Passage Bags
The Safe Passage Bags workshop, was created in the summer of 2015 in Lesvos and it has developed as one of the key integration and educational projects of Lesvos Solidarity. It is an upcycling project where bags are being created by refugees and locals living on the island. The bags are created with the lifejackets left on the shorelines of Lesvos, and used by refugees that have crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey. Lifejackets are a symbol of the unsafe passage millions of refugees are forced to undertake as a result of inhumane European border policies. The bags, which are recycled and made by refugees, are a symbol of hope. Rather than leaving the used lifejackets buried in a land field, we wanted to give them a new meaning, and generate a positive reminder that ‘where there is a will there is a way.
The Safe Passage Bags workshop is therefore the legacy of the refugees to the society. Each bag carries with it the history of a forced travel, each bag will constitute in the future a solid historical proof of where violence can lead to, distributed among the people who care. Carrying a Safe Passage bag is therefore a reminder: No one leaves their home and no one puts their child on a boat, unless the sea is safer than the land.
The Humade Crafts workshop was established in June 2017 and is an innovative idea that aims at education, vocational training and social inclusion. Having as a start line the respect for the environment and the natural resources, various methods of recycling and re-use of these materials have been explored. The project aims at: sensitizing people, developing their creativity and ingenuity, inspiring concepts such as recycling, processing and transformation of useless materials and the rational use of them. Moreover, it facilitates the reduction of waste volume, promotion of the art of re-use, cultivation of environmental responsibility, strengthening of the economy, limitation of the over-consumption, while creates remarkable and unique pieces of art.
Following the basic principles of Lesvos Solidarity, the main focus of both projects is to provide physical and psychological support to the local, refugee and migrant population through the creation of spaces of socializing and solidarity. The ultimate target of the projects is to continue providing working positions for people in need so that they will be able to move towards a life with dignity within the social fabric.