In the first period of application for asylum refugees are not allowed to work. Giving asylum seekers access to the labour market too quickly would remove the distinction between economic migration and asylum, is the underlying idea. But there are loopholes to be found. Different countries use different periods of time before working is allowed, varying from 12 months in Great-Britain, and 9 months in France to 6 months in The Netherlands.

But even half a year is a long time when you’re not allowed to do anything, and in most cases there are still restrictions afterwards. After six months of waiting asylum seekers in the Netherlands only get permission to work 24 weeks per year.

In Limbo Embassy

Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Manon van Hoeckel found a legal loophole to give refugees work: as part of her project ‘In Limbo Embassy’, an ‘embassy’ for rejected asylum seekers, she also presented ‘Printed Matters’, a confronting series of ‘official’ silk-screened portraits of the ambassadors, made by asylum seekers that can be sold under the right to freedom of press.


Three advertising students from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam found another loophole. Robin van Eijk, Jazz Tonna, Guido van Werkhoven discovered that Estonia is profiling itself as one of the most advanced e-societies in the world. Besides voting online in elections and signing legally binding contracts over the internet, the country offers entrepreneurs to register a business in less than 20 minutes. On the website the students visualize the 7-step procedure to register an e-Estonian company, offering refugees a legal option to start their own business.

Referring to the fact that the refugee entrepreneur would look after his own income, the students state: ‘With this project we want to help the refugees without forgetting the interests of the Dutch society.’