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You will need: Copies of the three role cards ‘Refugees’, ‘Immigration Officers’ and ‘Observers’. Copies of the information sheet ‘The right to asylum – international law’. Download these from the bottom of this page. 

This is a role play exploring the experience and rights of refugees seeking sanctuary in another country.

Divide everyone into three groups (they don’t have to be the same size),

  • Refugees from Montador
  • Immigration Officers from Arboria
  • Observers

1. Give each group copies of the appropriate role card to read and familiarise themselves with. Give the Observers the info sheet ‘The right to asylum – international law’ as well.

2. Give the groups 10 minutes to prepare: refugees and Immigration Officers should decide what their individual roles will be within the group, and what arguments they will use to the other group. Observers should look at their information sheet and make a list of things they will look out for.

3. Set up a ‘border’ using a chalk line or furniture and sit the refugees and Immigration Officers on separate sides of the border. Ask the observers to sit so they can see both sides.

4. Set the scene with a description:
‘It’s a cold, dark night on the border between Montador and Arboria. Many refugees have arrived, fleeing a war in Montador. They are hungry, tired and cold, and desperately want sanctuary in Arboria. They don’t have much money and no documents except their passports. The Immigration Officers from Montador have different opinions as to whether the refugees should be allowed into Montador. The refugees try hard to persuade them.’

5. Let the groups play out their roles for about 15 minutes, with the observers making any notes they think are relevant.

6. Then ask the observers to give general feedback on what they saw. Invite comments from the refugees and Immigration Officers on how they felt in their roles.

Group discussion:

  • Which arguments persuaded the Immigration Officers to allow the refugees into Arboria?
  • How fair was the treatment of the refugees?
  • Were the refugees given their right to protection? Why/why not?
  • Should a country have the right to turn refugees away?
  • What sorts of problems do refugees face in this country?
  • What should be done to stop people becoming refugees in the first place?

If you have time
Run the role play again with the groups swapping over. The new observers should try to note any differences between the new role play and the first one, especially where the differences result in higher protection of the refugees’ rights.

Alternative version

Instead of Immigration Officers, invite this group to play the roles of people in the community of Arboria, such as students, elderly people, farmers and unemployed people. Does each person have different priorities, and feel differently about whether the refugees from Montador should be welcomed into their community? What support do they think the refugees will need if they stay?


This activity has been taken from the Department for International Development's resource Global Communities: Learning about Refugee Issues

Refugees role card.JPG73.68 KB
Immigration Officers role card.JPG95.53 KB
Observers role card.JPG59.16 KB
Information sheet - The right to asylum - international law.JPG100.38 KB