Human Rights

Exploring Refugees and Asylum Seekers

30 - 45 minutes

Overview:

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines a refugee as person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." Currently, it is estimated that there are over 60 million refugees worldwide. Moreover, the U.S. accepts approximately 70,000 refugees each year. Asylum seekers seek refuge outside their home countries as well, due to various types of persecution, but their claims have yet to be evaluated.

In an increasingly diverse world, it is important that students are aware of global situations that may lead people to flee their country in search for a better life. Schools also play a critical role in supporting refugees, as New America’s Ed Central has pointed out in their recent article, “The Critical Role Schools Play in Responding to Refugees.”

As an organization with humanitarian roots that has worked diligently to assist the refugee population around the world, AFS-USA believes in the power of intercultural education as a pathway to peace. To highlight, alumni from AFS Austria began the AFS-Refugee Aid Foundation in 1978. Current programs include supporting refugee youth in Austria, other European nations and Grozny-Chechnya.

This lesson plan is aimed at spreading awareness on refugees and asylum seekers, as there are more now than after World War II. Students will gain an understanding of what it means to be a refugee in the 21st century, explore encounters of refugees in the resettlement process, and expose students to different organizations that work with refugees including:
U.S Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Office of Refugee Resettlement
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees 
International Rescue Committee
Students will be asked to read poems from young refugees: A Book of Poems: Expressions from Our Youth and be challenged to write a poem on their thoughts of what it means to be a refugee in the 21st century. 

Time: 

30-45 minutes

Materials:

A Book of Poem: Expressions from our Youth
Calling All Refugee Kids – Video from the New York Times
Syrian Refugee in New Jersey – Video clip
Note Cards
Internet Access

Key Terms:

Refugee:  “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." See more at http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c125.html

Asylum Seekers: “an asylum-seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated. On average, about 1 million people seek asylum on an individual basis every year. In mid-2014, there were more than 1.2 million asylum-seekers”. See more at http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c137.html

UNHCR:  “The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was established on December 14, 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.” See more at http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646cbf.html

U.S Committee for Refugees: “Since 1911, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) has been serving uprooted people, regardless of their nationality, race, ideology, or social group.  We continue to provide tools and opportunities for self-sufficiency to refugees and immigrants nationwide, fight refugee warehousing around the world, serve victims of human trafficking, and protect the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children” See more at http://www.refugees.org/about-us/

Resettlement: “Resettlement is the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to another State that has agreed to admit them and ultimately grant them permanent settlement.” See more at http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a16b1676.html

Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.9
Compare and contrast treatments of the same topic in several primary and secondary sources.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.5
Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.

AFS Educational Goals:

Cultural Realm:
• Understand the concepts of “Culture” and intercultural adaptation
• Cultural knowledge and awareness: To become more aware of their own culture and recognize its influence on their behavior
Global Realm:
• To develop an increased curiosity and concern about world affairs, to develop a sustained commitment to obtaining information from many sources and seek out perspectives from other cultures in understanding world situations and problems.
• To have an increasing knowledge of a range of world issues that affect people and divide us, such as human rights, environmental issues, and poverty.

Activity

1. Provide a brief introduction on the purpose of the lesson plan and ask students to write down their definition of a “refugee” and “asylum seeker” on the notecards.
2. Ask some students to share some of their thoughts with the class.
3. Read the official definition of a refugee and asylum seekers by The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to the class and have a short discussion on the similarities/differences.
4. Watch the video clips “Calling All Refugee Kids” and “Syrian Refugee Living in New Jersey
5. Ask students to provide feedback on the video clips as a whole class.
6. Ask students to read the poems in A Book of Poem: Expressions from our Youth from the award recipients group III (Grades 9-12)
7. Break students in a group and ask them to choose a poem of their choice and answer the following questions:
a. What are the important themes in this poem?
b. What do you think is the background of this poem?
c. Why did you choose this poem from the others?
8. Come back as a group and debrief with the students
9. Ask students to explore organizations that work with refugees including:
10. U.S Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Office of Refugee Resettlement , The Office of the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees , International Rescue Committee and research different ways they help refugees in the resettlement process. 
11. Homework assignment: Ask students to write a poem on what it means to be a refugee in the 21st century.

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