What to do
Ask for two volunteers and brief them that they’re border control officials. They should stand / sit at the border and pretend not to understand any questions asked them by the group. They should only allow people to cross the border when they’ve filled in their form in ‘squiggle language’, but are not to explain that this is the correct way to fill in the form.
Everyone else should imagine they are refugees fleeing their country, where a war is killing many thousands of people. They’ve heard that the UK is a safe place and arrived after a long journey. Give everyone a form and a pen each and explain that they must fill in the form correctly and give it to a border control official to be approved before they can enter the UK.
Stop the activity when everyone has passed, or is really frustrated (bear in mind that children who aren’t very comfortable reading and writing may find the activity particularly frustrating). Explain that this is how it can feel for people arriving in the UK trying to find somewhere safe to stay.
- How did people feel when they weren’t understood?
- What else might be difficult if you don’t speak the language of the country you’re in?
- What does the UN do?
- Why is it important to have an organisation that is bigger than any one country?
- How does this help countries to work together?