We have already explored the issue of ‘migrants lost at sea’. As more and more people are fleeing war and persecution, the issue has become much more pressing, at least for countries in Europe (for countries in North Africa and the Middle East it has been a pressing issue for a long time).
So now it’s time to present more useful links, teaching ideas and suggestions for ways to take action.
You could start off a lesson by watching, listening to, or singing this song, ‘Refuge’ (music and lyrics by Howard Goodall) which reflects on what it’s like to be an outsider, and to offer help and safety.
In 2015, the heart-rending photo of the body of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a beach in Turkey after he had drowned, featured in many news stories around the globe. It brought home the real trauma that people are having to go through in their efforts to find safety.
On 7 September 2015, UK Prime Minister at the time David Cameron announced that the UK would take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. France pledged to take 24,000 refugees over two years; in Germany some 18,000 people arrived over one weekend alone (source: BBC News).
One idea for a Citizenship lesson could be for students to consider what influenced the UK government to change their policy on taking in refugees from Syria. Was it the photo of Aylan Kurdi or campaigns on social media such as #refugeeswelcome and the petition for more support to refugees, or pressure from other European states?
In the last year (2018), public opinion towards refugees has begun to shift, with over half of the UK population feeling that refugees deserve more support and 38% of people feeling that the government should be doing more (source: BBC News). This could make another interesting discussion with students; why are people beginning to change their mind, will this shift continue?
Where have people come from, and why?
BBC News: EU Migration: Crisis in graphics shows in numbers, charts and maps where people have come from, which countries they are arriving in, and which countries provide asylum.
GapMinder Foundation: These two ‘factpod’ clips by Hans Rosling explain the barriers people face in applying for asylum before they travel, and which countries currently host the most refugees from Syria
UNHCR: Refugees/Migrants Emergency Response – Mediterranean useful maps and data showing the current situation.
For primary-aged pupils, CBBC Newsround has quite a few news articles for children around the issue:
What’s happening in Syria? This provides information about why people are trying to leave Syria and includes clips of children talking about their lives since the war began.
There is also a short film clip: Why are migrants risking their lives to reach Europe? and another series of clips: Why do child migrants want to come to the UK?
How to describe them: migrants, refugees, people?
“This is a primarily refugee crisis, not only a migration phenomenon.”
(UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres)
“The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.”
(A note on terminology, from the BBC website)
Al Jazeera: When it comes to refugees, terminology matters
Channel4 (Lindsey Hilsum): Migrants or refugees: what’s the right word?
Perhaps you could discuss in class the words that have been used, and what these words mean. Not just ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee’, but describing groups of humans as ‘swarms’ or ‘floods’, or comparing them to insects or vermin. Why do people use these words? What impact does it have? Students could explore ways in which specific groups of people have been ‘dehumanised’ through use of language, for example in Nazi Germany or during the genocide in Rwanda.
Refugees in Britain’s history
Britain has previously been a country welcoming to refugees, as the links below will show. How many students or teachers in your class or school have refugees – or migrants – in their ancestry?
Buzzfeed: 7 moments in history when the UK welcomed refugees – from the Huguenots in the 16th-18th centuries to the Kosovan refugees in the 1990s.
International Business Times: A reminder of Britain’s long history of welcoming refugees – some excellent photos of refugees coming to Britain from 1922 to the present day.
Facing History And Ourselves has written a blog, Echoes of the Past: The Current Refugee Crisis in Europe which compares today’s treatment of refugees with similar times before, during and after World War II and offers up some questions to consider in class.
What is life like in a refugee camp?
Refugee Republic is an amazingly detailed interactive website that lets you explore life in Domuz Camp, a Syrian refugee camp in northern Iraq, home to around 64,000 predominantly Kurdish Syrian refugees. It includes lots of photos, sound recordings and life stories. This website is well worth exploring with your students.
How would you feel if war came to your home?
In 2015 Save The Children ran a powerful awareness-raising campaign called What if Surrey were Syria? They used hidden cameras to record how the public reacted to a series of events unimaginable in the UK but sadly commonplace in Syria. Standard services were temporarily cut off, leaving Surrey residents under the illusion that they had no access to food, school and medical care.
What’s it like to flee your home?
The following links may help make refugees’ desperate journeys a bit more ‘real’ for students:
New York Times Magazine: Desperate Crossing – a hard-hitting, interactive piece of photo-journalism following a boatload of refugees rescued in the Mediterranean.
BBC: Syrian Journey: Choose your own escape route – an interactive journey to explore the dilemmas refugees face. Includes links to survivors’ stories.
British Red Cross: Over, Under, Sideways, Down – an online ‘graphic novel’ telling the story of Ebrahim who left Iran as a teenage refugee.
DocAcademy: Moving to Mars – documentary film about how two Burmese refugee families manage when they move out of a refugee camp on the Thai/Burma border to a new life in Sheffield. Includes Key Stage 3 lesson plans.
As well as learning more about the issue of refugee crisis, you and your pupils might want to consider what action you can take on the issue.
Taking action, and then reviewing the effects of the action, is also a great way to learn, and can help pupils to consider what agency they have as individuals and groups on global issues.
Below are suggestions for a range of actions – if you can think of others, why not tell everyone about them in the comments box below?
20 Second Welcome
Students can prepare a 20 second long welcome video, welcoming refugees into the UK. These can then be posted on Twitter with the hashtag #SimpleActs.
– Petitions / Writing to your MP:
Refugee Action: Let’s give refugees another way to safety – petition calling for increased resettlement places and action on tackling the root causes of the refugee crisis through diplomacy and aid.
Amnesty International: Safe passage to protection in the EU – petition to EU leaders (delivered July 2015).
You can find contact details for your local MP by inputting your postcode at: www.theyworkforyou.com.
– Practical help / donations:
Project Paddington encourages schoolchildren to donate a teddy bear to a refugee child, as well as sponsorship money which will buy other essential items for refugees. Read more here: Facebook campaign delivers bear essentials for refugee children (ITV News).
Guardian: Refugee crisis – what you can do to help
– If you have – or expect to have – refugees in your school:
Headteacher Update: Supporting refugees in your school community
You could consider joining Schools of Sanctuary
– Raising awareness:
Although this issue is at the front of many people’s minds, how much do students and your school community really know? Students could create a display, write an article for a school newsletter or blog for your school website to share facts and stories about refugees and what they are doing to help.
Further teaching resources
The Refugee Week website carries a good range of videos, stories and classroom resources.
The UNHCR website has section with Educational Resources for Teachers.
CAFOD: Refugee Crisis in Europe – fact sheet, presentation, Q&A and other resources for schools and youth groups.
Geographical Association: Teaching about refugees and migration – a range of ideas and resources
Letterbox Library has a list of books that explore refugee and migration issues.
Development Education Centre South Yorkshire (DECSY) has produced a list of story books relating to refugees (Word docx) – these can be used as P4C stimulus or just generally.
The Morningside Center: Teachable Instant: Refugee Crisis – a perspective from the US.
The photos used to illustrate this piece are by Franz Ferdinand Photography on Flickr.com and show volunteers ready to welcome refugees from Syria in Frankfurt/Main, Germany on 5 September 2015. See more in the album ‘Train of Hope’.
Thanks to Isobel Mitchell and other GLP-e National Leads for help in compiling this page!