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Virtual game offers insight into refugee experience

News Stories, 15 June 2005

© UNHCR
A still from Against All Odds.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, June 15 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency has launched a web-based interactive game to offer teenagers in Sweden some insight into the refugee experience.

"Against All Odds" is a Swedish-language knowledge and experience game designed to promote integration and positive attitudes towards refugees by putting players in their shoes.

"Under time pressure, the player is forced to leave his or her home, escaping from persecution in the home country and taking off towards an uncertain future in another country, facing a different culture and a new language," explains Mans Nyberg, UNHCR's spokesman in Stockholm. "The player, as a refugee, has to do his or her best not to give up but to rebuild life in a foreign country."

Among the different scenarios, players must overcome obstacles to leave their homes in search of protection and assistance. In exile, they must cope with difficulties at school, not knowing the language and making new friends. They also experience what refugees go through when facing discrimination on the streets, applying for a job and generally starting a new life.

In addition to the experience-based part of the virtual game, "Against All Odds" also features a factual library with articles on situations of repression, and efforts to promote respect for human rights and protection and assistance to refugees. There are also interviews with real refugees who tell their stories.

The third component of the package offers a teacher's guide with exercises founded on knowledge, empathy and understanding.

© UNHCR
Which flight route would you choose, asks the game in Swedish. Play Against All Odds.

Norwegian company Statoil supported UNHCR's Regional Office for the Baltic and Nordic Countries in producing the game. The two organizations have a history of partnership, working in the field to build peace, advance human rights and find durable solutions for the world's persecuted and most vulnerable people. Projects range from educating internally displaced people in Azerbaijan to rehabilitating schools and health facilities in Angola.

UNHCR's other partners in "Against All Odds" include Microsoft, Ericsson and Datareal AB. The game was developed by Paregos and Tictac.

"We welcome the increasing social commitment of the corporate sector and their support, which has made it possible to develop and produce this e-learning tool," said UNHCR's Nyberg.

The Norwegian version of "Against All Odds" is expected to be ready in autumn this year.

By Kristina Rodriguez in Stockholm, Sweden

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Mahmoud's Journey: A Young Syrian Survives Being Shot At, Detained and Bullied to Find a New Life in Sweden

A photo essay by Shawn Baldwin and Johan Bävman

A photograph of Syrian refugee, Mahmoud, shows the nine-year-old looking wistfully out of the window of an apartment block in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. Perhaps he is thinking of happier days at school in his home town of Aleppo or maybe he is wondering what life will be like when he and his family are resettled in Sweden. When the image was taken late last year, Mahmoud had not been able to attend school for two years. His family had fled Syria in October 2012. Like 300,000 other Syrians, they sought shelter in Egypt, where life was tough - and became tougher in 2013, when public opinion began to turn against the Syrians as Egypt struggled with its own problems. Mahmoud became the target of bullies, even at one point being physically attacked. Afterwards, he refused to leave the rented family apartment in 6th of October City, a drab, sand-swept satellite suburb of Cairo.

Mahmoud's father tried to send him to Italy on a smuggler's boat, but the vessel was fired on and the traumatized boy ended up spending five days in a local detention centre. Once back home, he fell target to the bullying once more. But his case came to the attention of UNHCR and the refugee agency recommended Mahmoud and his family for resettlement. In January 2014, Mahmoud and his family flew to Sweden to begin a new life in the small town of Torsby, where he runs and plays outside without fear - he even had his first snowball fight. And now he is back at school.

Mahmoud's Journey: A Young Syrian Survives Being Shot At, Detained and Bullied to Find a New Life in Sweden

Sweden: Mahmoud's EscapePlay video

Sweden: Mahmoud's Escape

Mahmoud was one of more than 300,000 Syrian refugees who have sought safety in Egypt since the conflict in his homeland began three years ago. The nine-year-old was so desperate to attend school that he risked his life to get to Europe. He was stopped and sent back to Egypt but is now making a fresh start in Sweden.