Theme I, M & A
"A refugee would like to have your problems".
What do we really know about the challenges
and problems which have forced someone to leave their country,
family, home and work to live in a country where they are
• Problems of refugees and asylum-seekers.
• Empathy towards displaced people.
• Stereotypes, prejudice and xenophobia
• To understand the reality faced
by refugees and immigrants.
• To generate awareness of the problems
they face in the host countries.
• To promote empathy and solidarity
towards the situation of refugees and immigrants.
• To look into the issues of exclusion
and integration and our perceptions about different people
• To introduce discussion about North/South
imbalances and their relation to people's daily problems.
90 minutes - 2 hours
Any size, if you are working with large
numbers you can sub-divide them into small groups.
• The facilitator should have an
insight into the reasons that lead people to immigrate or
seek asylum. You will find the background information in
• Make copies of the beginning of
the story or be prepared to tell it to the participants.
(The name, the origin of the refugee or immigrant should
be adapted to suit your circumstances).
• If at all possible make contact
with someone locally who is a refugee or immigrant or, if
this is not possible, with an NGO working with them.
• Board or flip chart and pens.
1. Read out aloud, or hand round copies
of the following story:
"Miriam is a refugee in our town. She
arrived two months ago from her country where she was in
fear of her life because of her economic circumstances (or
2. Ask people to form groups of four to
six people to discuss and then to write a short story or
news article about how Miriam left her country and what
it is like for her living here. Think about:
• What Miriam's life here is like.
• What difficulties she faces.
• How is she being supported (or
• How does she learn the language?
• Can she work and in what kind
• Do you think she is having an
• How does she feel about us?
• What do you think Miriam had to
do to get to our town?
• How did she travel?
• Where did she find the money?
• What were the administrative procedures?
• What did she leave behind?
3. Then ask each group to present its story
or answers to the questions. As they do so you should record
on a board or flip chart the main points made by each group.
Debriefing and evaluation
Start the discussion by inviting the groups
to reflect upon each other's conclusions, namely by asking
what were the most "realistic" or "unrealistic"
If the discussion gets stuck you can prompt
with questions like, "do you think it is fair?",
"do you know anybody who went, or is going, through
a similar experience?", "did you ever imagine
this could happen to you?".
Conclude the discussion by inviting the
group to reflect upon what they can do to support refugees
or immigrants in their own town or, more generally, what
kind of support they need to integrate into their new society.
Tips for the facilitator
This activity is particularly suitable for
local groups because it may generate concrete solidarity
and action. But it also works well with an international
group if emphasis is put on awareness raising, comparing
different legal status, etc.
It follows on well from 'Labels'
It is essential to be well informed and
have up to date relevant information. In your role as facilitator
you may be asked to give some facts about refugees in your
country or town. In this case it may also be useful to be
able to hand out copies of figures, graphs or tables relating
to refugees in different countries to make comparisons.
Data and information about refugees, or
NGOs dealing with them can be easily obtained from the National
Campaign Committee or the national offices or contacts of
the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
or UNICEF, as well as from some humanitarian or development
NGOs e.g. Red Cross, Amnesty International, etc.
1. Rather than writing news stories the
groups could "dramatise", or make a short sketch
about, an episode during Miriam's departure from her country
or her arrival in our town.
2. Invite a refugee or immigrant to your
plenary discussion. If possible find someone who is living
in your town now. Invite them to tell the group briefly
why they left their country of origin, how they travelled
and what happened to them on the way. Follow up with a longer
question and answer session. You will need more time for
3. Read a story. If it is not easy to find
a refugee or immigrant who would be able to help, an alternative
is to read or distribute a story of a real refugee.
Suggestions for follow up
Schedule time in a forthcoming session to
work on the ideas developed in this activity and to decide
what realistic, practical action the group could take to
support immigrants locally. Be active in promoting good
relations in your country.
Sometimes it can be very difficult to know
how to react in a situation when you see someone discriminating
against someone else. It happens all the time, on buses,
in shops and on the street - but how do you react? What
should you do? Explore this in 'Sharing
discrimination'. Alternatively, if you want to look
at how our knowledge of other people is based on often partial
and misleading information use 'Every
picture tells a story'. From a poster published by the
If you want to help the members of the group
appreciate some of the difficulties refugees in a foreign
country face, the try the activity, 'The
language barrier' in Compass. It simulates the
difficulties refugees have when applying for asylum. For
instance, not knowing the language and discrimination during
the application procedure.
If the group have never met a refugee, then they may like
to hear some first-hand accounts of what it is like by reading
the 'Personal experiences
of refugees' (B/14, Alien 93). There is also a
personal story by Juliana Violari, a young woman caught
at the Turkish/Greek border in Cypress, in "Stories
told by young people", section 4 of Domino.