Surviving against the odds: a taste of life as a refugee

News Stories, 7 December 2005

© UNHCR/K.Rodriguez
Pupils at Midtstuen School in Oslo try their hand at the refugee-simulation game 'Against All Odds'

OSLO, December 7 (UNHCR) You are arrested, beaten up and forced to sign a confession, just for taking part in a peaceful march. Fearing even worse to come, you flee your country taking only what you can carry in a small rucksack. You arrive in a strange city where you don't speak the language. You don't know anyone. You don't know where to go. You have to find shelter, reliable information and get a job.

These are some of the challenges facing players of the interactive web-based game "Against all odds," which aims to give young people an insight into what it is like to be a refugee.

"It is important that all of us who value tolerance fight against rising intolerance and irrational fears that we can accept differences. This is a problem everywhere. 'Against all odds' is one tool to struggle for tolerance," UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres said today at the launch of the Norwegian-language version of the game. Mr Guterres has singled out the fight against rising intolerance in modern societies as one of the main challenges facing his organization today.

"It is a learning experience," said 15-year-old pupil Lars Pahle, as he tried out the game, "maybe it is not totally realistic, but you get an understanding of what it is like to be a refugee." Karoline Haugen, also 15, added, "It is good. You have to think over the choices a refugee is forced to make." Their fellow pupil, Bendik Brynestad, also liked the game: "It is a new way of learning more exciting than just reading in books."

Developed by UNHCR with financial support from the Norwegian company Statoil, the web-based educational tool gives young people a virtual experience of what it is like to flee one's home country and become a refugee. It takes participants through the asylum process and the challenges of starting all over again in a foreign country.

Among the different scenarios, players must overcome obstacles to leave their homes in search of protection and assistance. Once 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.

"I played 'Against all odds' last night, but I got lost and I could not get out of the city. It is very well made and as complex as a refugee situation is. This game is a good way to combat xenophobia," commented Trygve Nordbye, Norwegian Director General for Immigration.

In addition to the interactive game, "Against all odds" features a factual library with background information on refugee situations, as well as interviews with real-life refugees who tell their stories. There is also a teacher's guide with exercises to promote knowledge, empathy and understanding of refugees.

"Against all odds" was originally launched in Swedish, but translations of the game into other languages, including German and French, are currently under way.

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