A few months ago (April 2015) we explored the issue of ‘migrants lost at sea’. As more and more people are fleeing war and persecution (September 2015) 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 we feel it’s now 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.
According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, so far this year over 300,000 people have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean, and over 2,600 have died in the attempt.
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 David Cameron announced that the UK would take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. France is taking 24,000 refugees over the next two years; in Germany some 18,000 people arrived over this past 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?
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.
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:
“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)
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?
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.
How would you feel if war came to your home?
Save The Children recently ran an 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.
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?
– A symbolic action:
Refugee Action:Help send #2000flowers – posting flower photos via social media in memory of 2,000 refugees who have lost their lives in the Mediterranean this year, and calling on the British and European governments to protect those forced to flee.
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.
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!