Building Bridges Toolkit

The Toolkit was designed to collect and share the know-how on voluntary projects involving people seeking or who have recently found refuge, as well as raising awareness on forced migration in general. The collection of guidelines, methods and case studies is non-exhaustive and should simply foster your own inspiration and support you in implementing projects on the topic. The creation of the Toolkit has been driven by the ever bigger need of the international SCI network to exchange best practices on projects in the field. It was coordinated by SCI Switzerland with the support of Útilapu Hungary. Its existence wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Mercator Foundation Switzerland and the active contribution of the Building Bridges working group and a number of SCI branches.

METHODS AND TOOLS serve to support your work on the topic of refugees and migration with different target groups.


Would your asylum application be acceptable?

Time needed: 30 min

Objectives / aim: Raise awareness about the discrimination refugees and asylum seekers face

Level of Difficulty: Low-Medium


  • Copies of the “Asylum Application” handout, one for each participant (in a language they do not understand)
  • Pens, one per person
  • Preparation: Arrange the room so you can sit behind a desk and role-play the formality of a bureaucratic official.

Number of participants: Any

This is a simulation of the difficulties that refugees face when applying for asylum. Issues raised include: The frustrations and emotional factors refugees have to face when overcoming the language barrier through discrimination during the application procedure.


1. Let people arrive but do not greet anyone or acknowledge their presence. Don’t say anything about what is going to happen.
2. Wait a few minutes after the scheduled start time and then hand out the copies of the“Application for Asylum” and the pens, one to each participant.
3. Tell them that they have five minutes to complete the form, but don’t say anything else. Ignore all questions and protests. If you have to communicate speak another language (or a made-up language) and use gestures. Keep all communication to a minimum. Remember that the refugees’ problems are not your concern, your job is only to hand out the forms and collect them in again!
4. Greet any latecomers curtly (for example, “You are late. Take this form and fill it in. You have only got a few minutes left to do it.”)
5. When five minutes are up, collect the forms without smiling or making any personal contact.
6. Call a name from the completed forms and tell that person to come forward. Look at the form and make up something about how they have filled in the form, for instance,“you didn’t answer question 8″ or “I see you answered ‘no’ to question 6 –> Asylum Denied.” Tell the person to go away. Do not enter into any discussion. Go straight onto call the next person to come forward
7. Repeat this process several times. It is not necessary to review all the applications, only continue for as long as necessary for the participants to understand what is happening
8. Finally break out of your role and invite participants to discuss what happened.
9. Debriefing and evaluation: Start by asking people how they felt during the activity and then move on to discuss what happened and what they have learned.
10. How did the participants feel when they were filling out an unintelligible form? Was this a realistic simulation of an asylum seeker’s experience?
11. Do you think that in your country asylum seekers are treated fairly during their application for asylum? Why? Why not? What could be the consequences for someone whose asylum application is refused?
12. Have the participants ever been in a situation where they could not speak the language and were confronted by an official, for instance, a police officer or a ticket-controller? How did it feel?


  • This is a fairly easy activity to facilitate: the main thing required from you is to do be “strong” in your role and you must be serious, tough and bureaucratic. The plight of the refugees is not your concern; you are here to do your job!
  • Make sure the participants get a feeling about following issues:
    The point is that many people do not want refugees in their country.
    Immigration officers are under orders to screen the refugees and to allow entry only to those who have identification papers and who complete the application forms correctly.
    The refugees frequently have a poor command of the other country’s language and find it very difficult to fill in the forms. Also, they are in a distressed and emotional state.
    It is especially hard for them to understand what is happening because their applications are frequently denied and they do not understand the reasons.


Reference / original source of the method:
Compass – Manual on Human Rights Education with Young People (CoE)


You can share your experience, observations, tips and tricks, pictures etc. by uploading for instance a method or a case study to the Building Bridges Toolkit. As this Toolkit is a work in progress to which all involved parties are invited to contribute, we would also be very grateful for your support and contribution in order to inspire others to continue the work towards peace and intercultural understanding.