Race To Refuge

Race to Refuge - brought to you with assistance from Dialogue4Destitution and Still Human Still Here

Special thanks to Nicky Bolland (D4D), Mike Kaye (Still Human Still Here), and Ama Budge (Encant) for providing contacts, context, and support in the development of this art/dialectic method (aka game!).

Following are the rules and required information to run Race to Refuge, an interactive game designed to initiate and dialogue regarding the plight of refugees and asylum seekers globally. The game can be run with groups as small as 7-12 participants, but is scalable, and a lot more fun, the more participants engage. However, smaller groups can still gain a great deal of insight through the activity.
The design of this game is based on the ideologies of participatory education methods and forum theater methodologies. It is physical, mental, and possibly quite emotional, dependent upon the participants.

What is the game? What is the purpose?

This game is mutable, in that game leaders can utitilize data from any sources they can find to populate the game mechanics while maintaining the basic framework. The purpose of the game is to enact the difficulties asylum seekers and refugees face when trying to find a safe (and secure) place to set up a new life.

What you need (Materials)

  • Data Research data regarding those countries statistics regarding refugees and asylum seekers.
    *as the game was played on March 10 (Encant Festival), I chose to represent USA, Canada, and the UK both because of data access and cultural relevance (however, any number of countries may be used for this process).*
    The following sites and data tables will prove useful in such research. Recognizing that these statistics are hard to track, and that many countries report numbers differently and have moderately different definitions of terms such as 'refugee' or 'asylum.' It will probably be necessary for game creators to modify and/or adjust values used within their game in order to better reflect the situation. However, these adjustments should be discussed after the fact, so that participants don't feel that true data was obscured in order to reach certain perceptive objectives.

    *On March 10, I dropped the USA refugee numbers from the totals because the data I had compiled showed the USA receiving more persons than applications. I surmised that this discrepancy was either the result of a. backlogs in the immigration application system or b. the result of varied terminologies and systems for tracking individual persons. Also, in order to reflect the temporary (but inherently insecure) asylum granted to many individuals and families, I allowed the countries to accept one temporary person, who was not given any guarantee that they could stay in the 'safe zone,' and could be kicked out of the zone at any point.*

  • Nationality Indication System For this I used flag stickers (printed on standard office labels). A template for this may be found here.

  • A space to run around

How does it work?

  • One year = One round: For instance, I used data from 2002-2010, each round represented the next year, Round 1=data from 2002, Round 2=data from 2003 and so on...
  • Pick volunteers to act as immigration authorities (you need as many volunteers as countries you have chosen to represent.
  • Rules for immigration authorities:
    • You can pick as many people (based on percent) as your country gave asylum to that year.
      For instance: if the United Kingdom granted asylum to 10% of the total applicants in 2002
      • Round 1 (2002)
      • 10 players acting as asylum seekers
      Immigration may let one player into the United Kingdom
    • Once a player has been granted asylum, they gain the ability to coordinate for future asylum seekers with immigration control.
    • The player acting as immigration control can hand over the responsibilities of that role to any player who has been granted asylum (but not a temporary resident) at any point in the game
  • All the remaining players are refugees/asylum seekers: At this point it is important to note that the game works better if asylum seekers are added to the pool each round. In order to accomplish this, if there are enough participants, I suggest holding the seeker number at 10-20, and allowing more participants in each round (this is also a good way to deal with late-comers!).
    Furthermore, if you can hold the number of seekers steady throughout the game, you will not have to give your immigration persons new information regarding how many participants they may take per year/round.
  • Participants have 2 minutes (less for less people, I suggest 30 seconds for groups of less than 10) in which to race across an open space to the various immmigration agents and plead their case. They can use whatever resources they have at their disposal (story-telling, humor, education...) to try and convince those within the country that they should be selected.
  • Participants are encouraged to try to gain access to multiple countries in a single round, and countries are encouraged to make decisions rapidly.
  • At the end of the round, all non-assigned persons must return to the "danger zone" to await the next round. It is at this point that any more participants may be added to this pool.
  • It is helpful if game leaders have a few non-player characters to, at this point, let countries know how many persons they are allowed to accept during the upcoming round, and to verify participant counts. It is also helpful to have created a small program (like this one) to quickly populate the data so that the game progress is not hindered by this process.
Once the game is complete (all rounds are accomplished), it is good to adjourn to a comfortable place and discuss the way that the game made participants feel. Brief participants on any further information leaders found in their preparatory research (and you will find lots of further information) as well as any modifications to the raw data needed to be made to fit the game mechanics. Finally, ask participants what they learned, how they felt, and how they think that some of the socio-political outcomes of the game process reflect the realities that many immigrants face. If you play this game (or create your own similar version) let me know! Post your game and mechanics (or a link to them) here, and I will be sure to check them out!

A Little More about Data

The collection methodology for the game data has been outlined above, but I wanted to include a few "lesson's learned" or "best practices" regarding how I combined that data to create a workable game scenario.

The UKBA spreadsheet (which is linked to in the above text) contains, at tab A07, the total number of applicants by country and year from 2002 to 2010. This data was taken from the UNHCR's data, which is presumably from reports given by those respective countries. The total number of applicants used within game statistics are taken from the sum of each of the countries represented in the game. I chose to use this number, as opposed to the total number of applications globally, as I felt it would better represent the situation from the perspective of the asylum seeker (in or out) without shrouding the various other countries to which a given individual might be trying to gain access.

Once I had this total, I then researched the specific countries' websites to see how many individuals they granted asylum, or permanent refugee status. This gets tricky as reporting is different across various countries (as was the issue mentioned above in regards to the United States numbers). By dividing the number of asylees/refugees granted permanent access by the number of reported applications (in toto), I got a ratio of successful applicants (country specific) to total applications (non-country specific). i.e. I got the ratio of persons that were allowed access to the countries from the total number of applications being made in that year, by country.

Finally, I created an area of the spreadsheet where I would multiply the total asylees (game participants) by this ratio to determine the number of participants a country is allowed to accept in a given year. All of this may be found in the spreadsheet here.

 Happy Playing!