Refugees and occupational therapy

What can occupational therapists do in issues relating to refugees and integration? This is a new area for a profession in transition, and it will be discussed at a seminar this week in Norrköping.

An all-day seminar on issues relating to refugees and integration is to be hosted by the occupational therapy programme at LiU, with financial support from the project “LiU’s initiatives for refugees”. The seminar is mainly for students in the programme. However since the organiser also wants to generate public debate, invitations have also gone to municipalities, the regional government and politicians.
“We’ve always been interested in issues concerning contemporary society. These are issues that engage both new and current students from the programme. It’s clear we’ve struck a chord, as we’ve received 70-odd registrations from students in various years of the programme,” says Mathilda Björk, programme head and co-initiator of the seminar.

What can occupational therapists do in issues relating to refugees and integration?
“Occupational therapists are highly skilled at using meaningful activities and bringing structure to the day-to-day lives of people who need structure in a chaotic existence. We have teachers with that experience and a keen interest in helping out in society where the refugees are.”
Mathilda Björk feels that society could make better use of occupational therapists’ expertise, in work related to integration and refugees:
“Finding people meaningful things to do and creating structure in their lives has positive health benefits, it’s what our profession is all about.”

Discover new fields for work

The seminar will feature presentations that give different perspectives on the integration of refugees into Swedish society. In between presentations will be discussion groups. Starting the day will be an inspirational lecture from Djamal Hamaii, who came to Sweden as an unaccompanied minor, and now works as an integration coordinator. Other speakers include two students who have attended an international conference on occupational therapy. They will speak about what measures are being taken in Europe, with regard to refugees and integration.

“It’s a way to increase student involvement. The seminar is not a part of the curriculum,” says Mathilda Björk.
She also predicts that the day can help older students discover new fields in which they could look for work, and can make new students aware of areas they had no idea they could work in.
“Networking is an important part of the day. It’s an opportunity to spread our expertise.”

What is the next step – after the seminar?
“We’ve already seen that there has been lots of interest in the seminar. In future we hope to expand it, invite more people, discuss collaborations, find areas in which to arrange placements or degree projects. Networking is important. There’s a lot to do in the sphere relating to integration and refugees, and so it’s brilliant that the university is getting behind the refugee issue, and making a day like this possible.”



The all-day seminar on refugee and integration issues will take place on 15 September 2016, from 9.00 to 15.00, at the Färgeriet Building, Campus Norrköping. Organiser: Occupational Therapy programme, Linköping University.