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Lesson plans for ages 15-18 in Human Rights and Refugees: The Right to Asylum

Teaching and training materials

Lesson plans for ages 15-18 in Human Rights and Refugees: The Right to Asylum

14 May 2007

An early example of refugee resettlement circa 1950s. After years in a German camp, one family prepares to start life afresh in New Zealand.

LESSON 3: Refugees' Experiences in Countries of Asylum: "What's in a name"?


A copy of the UNHCR publicity poster entitled What's the Difference? is needed for this lesson.

Link to previous lessons

For revision, ask the class these questions:

  • Why do people sometimes need asylum?
  • Where have these people sought asylum?
  • What can stop asylum seekers from successfully finding asylum?


Allow the students some time to study the poster entitled What's the Difference? Ask for suggestions from the class for the possible motives behind this poster, while reminding them that this poster has been produced by UNHCR.


When watching news reports and documentaries about the refugee flows which have occurred in the last decade, students may wonder how they can contribute to efforts to solve these tragedies. Perhaps students may sense that they are powerless to help, but this is not the case.

As mentioned in the reading material used in the previous lessons, refugees have sometimes been successful in finding asylum in neighbouring countries in the industrialised world. Having found asylum, the refugees may be safe from the persecution that they suffered in their own home countries, but they face the difficulty of not being thoroughly integrated in their new country.

Ask the students: What difficulties does the poster suggest might be faced by refugees in their host countries? Ask them to reflect upon the experiences of some of the refugees referred to in the articles which they read during the last lesson.

You may also find it useful to refer to the following definitions during the discussion:

Prejudice is a negative attitude or opinion about a person or group which is not necessarily based on knowledge of that person or group.

A stereotype is an oversimplified, generalized attitude about a group of people. Stereotypes are often, but not always, negative. They may be based on prejudice; they may also be derived from contact with one member of a group, if an impression of that person is assumed to be true for all who belong to that group.

Racism describes attitudes, actions, or institutional practices based on the assumption that certain people have the right to have power over others solely because of their skin colour or ethnic origins. Racism has been described as 'prejudice plus power'.

Stereotyping harms all members of the world community. Individuals who belong to groups which are commonly stereotyped are often denied education, employment opportunities and housing. They may be the targets of ridicule, harassment, and violence. The images harm the stereotypers as well because their biases rob them of the chance to share the knowledge and experience of other cultures. For a real attitudinal change to occur, students need to address the roots of prejudice, become aware of their own stereotypical beliefs and understand where these come from. They need to work to eliminate stereotypes that they hold, develop skills for dealing with bias in the community at large, and make a personal commitment to equality and justice.

Source: Susan Fountain, Education for Development (London, Hodder & Stoughton, 1995), p. 83

Referring to the poster What's the Difference?, ask the students how they have regarded refugees in past. Do they sense any change within themselves, concerning their attitudes towards refugees, since starting this unit of work? What changes are there? The teacher needs to guide this discussion with sensitivity, while encouraging the students to be frank, but be assertive if students rudely challenge each other over differing viewpoints.

Finally, if there is time, perhaps the teacher could ask the students why this lesson is titled "What's in a name?" and where they imagine the phrase came from.