||49 Practical Activities and Methods for Human
Rights Education > Can I come in?
Can I come in?
Refugee go home! He would if he could.
||Human Security, Discrimination
and Xenophobia, Peace
||6 - 20
||This is a role-play about a group of refugees trying to
escape to another country. It addresses:
- The plight of refugees
- The social and economic arguments for giving and denying
- The right to seek and enjoy, in other countries, asylum
- The right of non-refoulement (the right of refugees
not to be returned to their country where they can risk
persecution or death)
- The right not to be discriminated agains
- To develop knowledge and understanding about refugees
and their rights
- To understand the arguments for giving and denying
refugees entry into a country
- To promote solidarity with people who are suddenly
forced to flee their homes.
- Role cards
- Chalk and or furniture to create the border crossing
- Copy one information sheet per participant
- Copy the role cards, one for each immigration officer,
refugee and observer
- Set the scene for the role-play. For example, draw
a line on the floor to represent a border or arrange furniture
to make a physical frontier with a gap for the check post.
Use a table to serve as a counter in the immigration office
and make signs for the immigration office about entry
and customs regulations, etc.
- Explain that this is a role-play about a group of refugees
fleeing their homeland who wish to enter another country in
search of safety.
- Start with a brainstorm to find out what people know about
refugees. Write the points on a large sheet of paper or flipchart
paper to refer to in the discussion later.
- Show people the set-up in the room and read out the following
text. "It is a dark, cold and wet night on the border between
X and Y. A large number of refugees have arrived, fleeing from
the war in X. They want to cross into Y. They are hungry, tired
and cold. They have little money, and no documents except their
passports. The immigration officials from country Y have different
points of view - some want to allow the refugees to cross, but
others don't. The refugees are desperate, and use several arguments
to try to persuade the immigration officials."
- Divide the participants into equal groups. One group to represent
the refugees from country X, the second group to represent the
immigration officers in country Y and the third group to be
- Tell the "refugees" and the "immigration officers"
to work out a role for each person and what their arguments
will be. Distribute the handouts and give them fifteen minutes
- Start the role-play. Use your own judgement about when to
stop, but about ten minutes should be long enough.
- Give the observers five minutes to prepare their feedback.
Debriefing and Evaluation
Start by asking the observers to give general feedback on the
role-play. Then get comments from the players about how it felt
to be a refugee or an immigration officer and then move on to
a general discussion about the issues and what people learnt.
- How fair was the treatment of the refugees?
- Refugees have a right to protection under Article 14 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and under the 1951 Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees. Were the refugees given
their right to protection? Why/why not?
- Should a country have the right to turn refugees away?
- Would you do this yourself if you were an immigration officer?
What if you knew they faced death in their own country?
- What sorts of problems do refugees face once inside your
- What should be done to solve some of the problems of acceptance
faced by refugees?
- Are there any Internally Displaced Persons in your country?
Or in a neighbouring country?
- What can and should be done to stop people becoming refugees
in the first place?
Tips for the facilitator
Use the brainstorm to ascertain how much people already know
about why there are refugees, what causes people to flee their
homeland, and where they come from and the countries that they
go to. This will help you decide how to guide the debriefing and
evaluation, and what additional information you may need to provide
at that stage.
Think about what to do if someone in the group is a refugee.
Perhaps, they should not be in the group role-playing the refugees
in case they have painful memories of the experience.
The three groups do not have to be equal. You may, for instance,
choose to have only three or four observers and let the rest of
the group be active role-players.
You may wish to give the observers copies of the further information
so that they can inform themselves of the rights of refugees while
the rest are preparing for the role-play.
The scene is set on a dark, cold and wet night. So why not turn
off the lights and open the windows when you do the role-play?
To add to the refugees' confusion, you could make the signs at
the border in a foreign (or invented) language. Remember to brief
the immigration officials in group 2 about what the signs say!
Note: This activity was adapted from First Steps: A Manual for
starting human rights education, Amnesty International, London,
1997. The quote, "Refugee go home! He would if he could"
was a slogan used in an UNHCR campaign.
Run the role-play again, but let immigration officers and the
refugees swap parts. The observers should now have the additional
task of noting any differences between the first and the second
role-plays, especially those that resulted in a higher protection
of the refugees' rights.
Do a follow-on role-play involving an official team sent by
UNHCR to help the refugees from country X.
A school class may like to carry on with the topic by researching
information about the role of UNHCR (www.unhcr.ch)
and then writing an "official report" including the
- Those arguments which persuaded the immigration officers
to let the refugees in
- Any inappropriate behaviour by the immigration officers
- Recommendations for what country Y should do to protect the
rights of the refugees.
Suggestions for follow-up
Find out more about refugees in your country, especially about
the realities of their daily lives. Participants could contact
a local refugee association and interview workers and refugees.
If you want to look at a personal story of a young woman caught at the Turkish/Greek border in Cypress, then see Juliana Violari's story in "Stories told by young people", section 4 of Domino . You could also read about what young people have to say about their own experiences as immigrants in "Personal experiences of refugees", B/14 in Alien 93.
If you want to try an activity that follows the events after
refugees have crossed the borders and are applying for asylum,
you can run the activity "The language
You could explore attitudes to foreigners through the role-play activity, "In our block" in the all different all equal education pack .
Ideas for action
Make contact with a local or national organisation that works
for refugees who are sheltering in your country and see what you
can do to support them. For example, they may need people to help
gather essential items and deliver them to refugees.