4 — Seeking refuge and resettlement
In this section, students will research the experiences of refugees as they seek refuge in another country. At the end of this research, students will then use this material to write the third scene in their refugee’s journey.
Children of War: Voices of Iraqi refugees and The Happiest Refugee
Introduce Children of War: Voices of Iraqi refugees by Deborah Ellis, a collection of interviews with young people aged eight to 18 whose families fled Iraq to escape the brutality of Saddam Hussein’s regime (check background knowledge). After Afghanis, Iraqis make up the second largest group of refugees in the world. Begin with the interview with ‘R’ (pages 26–31), an unnamed 18-year-old Iraqi youth who belongs to a persecuted ethnic group, the Kurds. In the section to be read out (from paragraph 3, page 28 to page 30 ‘Finally we came to Canada’), we can see how R’s journey goes, from leaving home because of war and persecution, to being on the road, to seeking refuge in a refugee camp, then to resettlement in Canada. The context for this section is that R’s father has left to become a soldier in the Iraqi army.
Afterwards, discuss how R talks so much about the terrible conditions in the refugee camp where he spent four years. Students can compare this very negative account to Anh Doh’s account of the refugee camp on the Malaysian island where his family stayed for only three months (pages 27–28 to the end of the first section on page 28).
In small groups, students then discuss the positives of the refugee camp focused on by Anh Doh. Groups share findings with the class: they feel very lucky to be alive; make friends with other refugees; put their experiences into perspective, realising they had not suffered as much as others; after extreme hunger, food is now provided; they sell a possession to buy luxury food; they do not have to spend long there before an offer comes to resettle in Australia.
In pairs or small groups, depending on computer availability, have students explore an interactive guide to refugee camps first led by the teacher on the interactive whiteboard and then as a research task — to become familiar with conditions in camps, and listen to the stories of refugees as examples of translated interviews, making notes for later reference.
The guide is on a website by Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières – MSF). Discuss the work this humanitarian-aid non-government organisation (NGO) does, and background knowledge of the work of other NGOs who aid refugees, such as World Vision, Amnesty International and the Refugee Council of Australia. Other useful resources are Anatomy of a refugee camp — a Flash version interactive refugee camp layout, and a report on the conditions in Kala Refugee Camp, Zambia’s largest refugee camp.
Have students continue their refugee’s journey to include the third stage — ‘Seeking refuge’.
The fourth stage of the journey for the students' refugee narrative is resettlement in a new country. After researching stories of resettlement, the students will then complete their refugee narrative.
Arriving in a new, foreign country is disorienting. Mahtab uses her own cultural perspective to describes what she first sees when she arrives in Australia (page 117): ‘People everywhere, their arms showing, their faces naked. No beards.’ Refugees often arrive from a country to which they first fled on fleeing their home country. They will also compare a country such as Australia to the last country they were in. Pages 121–22 of Mahtab’s Story have her first impressions of Darwin. While reading this extract, notice how Mahtab compares Darwin to Indonesia; notice the different cultural lens through which she sees things.
After reading, have students in small groups highlight the descriptions of Darwin that show Mahtab’s Afghani cultural framework; for example, ‘It was like a market turned outwards’ (on page 121).
Introduce Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. Show the first 20 page spreads (unnumbered) of leaving home, the journey and arrival, up to finding a new home. Discuss how the visual text illustrates the disorientation of the migrant as he arrives and settles. Pre-choose a page to scan and display from the character’s early arrival, showing his disorientation — perhaps the scene where he does not understand how anything works in his new bedroom.
Discuss the attributes of Gleeson’s writing that show Mahtab’s Afghani cultural framework and the sense of disjunction created. In small groups, students discuss the cultural confusions the man in Tan’s The Arrival is experiencing. A 10-minute individual writing exercise can use a chosen page spread from The Arrival, with Gleeson’s writing as a model (on pages 121–22). Have students write the man’s first impressions of his new home from his own particular cultural perspective. Near the end of Mahtab’s Story is another point where Mahtab confuses one thing for another, but it is in contrast a joyous moment. Mahtab is soon to be reunited with her father.
Students now need to source and choose an interview (or first-person account, or profile derived from an interview), from resettled refugees who have gone through the four stages of the journey. One option is to follow the stories from the ABC in ‘One on One: Goulburn Valley Refugees’ with stories from Sakina and Fatima told through photos and audio.
Other options include interviews from Children of War by Deborah Ellis, including ‘R’s story’ (male, fled from Iraq to Iran, resettled Canada; pages 26–31) and those detailed below. Students might go online to independently read and choose a refugee’s story. Otherwise, print out and laminate several copies of Ellis interviews or the suggestions below and hold a ‘Drop Everything and Read’-style session.
Students may also choose from a list of links for possible interview subjects, or read the following recounts from Get Connected:
After researching their refugee resettlement stories, students are to write the fourth stage of their own refugee narrative.
Students will also need background research to write their scenes, their box on an NGO, create a journey map and source images. World Vision has a comprehensive list of country profiles. Students can create a route map using Google My Maps. However, they need a Google account to do so; this requires them to be at least 13. The teacher could possibly open an account for the students to create the maps at school.
Encourage students to use only properly attributed Creative Commons-licensed images in their texts, which would make it viable if they wanted to publish it online. CC Search is a useful website that allows a search for free Creative Commons content from different sites. As an extension, an additional graphic element can be created with a confronting refugee camp word-visual, or 'wordle'.
Presentation and reflection
Students explore the digital stories of their classmates, thus sharing in the stories of many other refugees, or different imaginary treatments if the same people are chosen. What do students think or feel when they hear refugees and asylum seekers mentioned in the news, after having put so many individual human faces to the issue?
Global citizenship in action
Look at the Refugee Council of Australia’s list ‘Myths about refugees and asylum seekers’ such as the myths that ‘Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are illegal immigrants’; ‘Refugee camps are perfectly safe. Why can’t these people just go there?’ and ‘Refugees don’t contribute to Australian society in any meaningful way’.
Have students prepare short digital presentations on ‘Myths about refugees and asylum seekers’, using materials from their digital stories, that can be shown at a school assembly, house meeting or parent-teacher evening. Have students invite their Federal Member of Parliament to the school to talk about refugees and asylum seekers and show their presentations.