To effectively spread knowledge about refugee rights and refugees’ issues in your country, you can address the same issues with host community institutions and individuals in order to build a unified group of refugee rights advocates. This section focuses on host country public institutions and governmental or non-governmental organizations, as they are – more often than not – the gatekeepers of services, and play an important role in facilitating access to other rights as well.
Selecting areas of focus and target institutions/organizations
Running trainings for organizations requires a slightly different approach to working with refugees. You can assume that your participants will be literate and speak the local language fluently, therefore PowerPoints, handouts, worksheets and other materials can be more detailed.
Conducting participatory diagnostics with workshop participants from institutions, as well as beforehand with the refugee community – in order to diagnose where knowledge gaps lie and which bodies are least aware of refugee rights – is necessary. You could conduct a mapping exercises of local organizations when seeking who to target. Building a relationship with individuals from these institutions is likely to improve relations, generate interest and boost participation in your trainings. It is also important to help spread the word among other partner or similar organizations you did not cover on your mapping exercise.
It is important to begin outreach to institutions based on the rights violations you see in your legal services activities and based on client testimonies. Target the most offending institutions first, and repeatedly. Following up on trainings is a good practice: make refresher trainings available to staff, and offer repeat trainings for new staff of public and non-governmental organizations.
What to cover?
Do not assume that any public institutions are aware of refugee rights laws in the country: few may have attended to refugees on account of their fear of approaching authorities. Even public defenders or ombudsmen may be unaware of refugee laws, rights and issues. Begin by finding out what people know about refugees, or what they think of when they hear the words refugee or asylum.
Your trainings should contextualize refugee issues in the country or region. Discuss briefly the causes of flight and make sure that participants understand that this unique experience of dislocation and lack of national protection make refugees unique and give them specific needs that citizens (whether poor, unemployed, or otherwise disadvantaged) do not have.
In many contexts, arbitrary detention of refugees is a serious and common threat. This often derives from a lack of knowledge about the rights of refugees, or the legality of their stay in a country with or without documentation. Targeting the police forces, military and other law enforcement officials in your context may be a useful starting point e.g. with detention trainings.
When working with institutions present your own organization briefly. You may need to tailor what you say about your perspective and activities to fit the audience e.g. not going into detail on your combative strategic litigation program if working with state institutions often wary of such approaches.
Evaluating can take the form of feedback surveys, but you may also find it useful to evaluate participants’ knowledge by running a short quiz on the refugee definition, the difference between refugees and migrants, the rights of refugees in your context, etc. Questions might include:
- Can a soldier be a refugee?
- Can an army deserter be a refugee?
- Can a child be a refugee?
- Can a war criminal be a refugee?
- Can a women persecuted on account of her gender apply for asylum?
- Can someone fleeing persecution on account of being gay apply for refugee status?
- Can someone with a false passport be a refugee?
Working with schools
Since discrimination, racism and exclusion are one of the most frequent problems suffered by refugees in their countries of asylum, working with students and young people in hosting areas is important. This not only helps tackle rejection in the present, but lays the foundations for future tolerance.
The key modification to your trainings will be based on the age group you will be working with. Review the facilitation techniques section for dynamics and activities appropriate for younger audiences. Consider leaving training materials with teachers in order to run sessions with other classes within the same institution.
Broach issues of armed conflict and refugee flows carefully with young children. You can explain that some people have had to flee insecurity in their country, and that they live among us, but maybe we’ve never spoken to them or no one has ever told us about this.
Topics to cover include:
- Stereotypes: What do we think of people from [REFUGEE SENDING COUNTRY]? What is this based on e.g. media, acquaintances? What experiences have we had?
- Asylum: What do we know about asylum or about being a refugee? Brainstorm on what words come to mind.
- Deconstruct negative perceptions (e.g. that they are soldiers or guerrilla fighters) and understand that refugees are forced to leave their country – it was not their choice; they are persecuted / threatened; their country can’t protect them; even if they want to they can’t return to their country. Use case studies and personal stories.
- Discuss the local refugee context including the conflict in the neighboring or sending country.
- Mention common issues refugees face in this country e.g. lack of income, survival sex, trafficking and/or smuggling, labor exploitation, racism, barriers in accessing healthcare, education, housing, work or justice.
- What would you do in this situation? Have students write the feelings and attitudes they imagine they would have if they had to leave their country. Explain reasons that might make us leave the country.
- How can we promote equality and non-discrimination (brainstorm)?
- Joint projects with host and refugee communities
- Tolerate others
- Work on our own stereotypes and prejudices
- Welcome a recently arrived refugee classmate
- Look out for and call out discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes among friends and family members.
Further resources for working in schools:
- UNHCR Lego Poster: How does it feel?
- Teacher’s Guide to UNHCR Lego Poster: How does it feel?
- How does it feel to be a refugee – Age group 8-10 (Miracle)