Each day millions of people around the world live displaced from their homes due to violence, persecution, and conflict. In 2012 alone, there were some 45.2 million internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees and asylum seekers globally, nearly half of them under the age of 18.
On March 29th, the American Red Cross’s International Humanitarian Law team hosted a Global Refugee simulation to educate participants about life as a refugee and the broader field of international humanitarian law. Hundreds of students gathered on a cold and muddy Saturday morning in outside of Washington, DC for this realistic, six-hour refugee simulation.
Participants were grouped into “families” escaping a war zone, and traversed “minefields,” were subjected to violations of their human rights (represented by the taking of participant tokens) and passed through military checkpoints and border crossings. Once they arrived at a refugee camp, they had to secure food, seek medical attention, and find or build their own shelters.
Before starting on their journey, each family was given a “story” to follow. Some had experienced violence and assault, some suffered from measles or other diseases caught along the way; many were separated from family members and friends.
As is the case in conflicts, some of the “families” in the simulation became separated, and participants were directed to the Red Cross Restoring Family Links tent when they reached the refugee camp. The American Red Cross assists more than 5.000 families annually in trying to reconnect with their loved ones in the U.S. and around the world through this service.
The second day of the event, nearly 700 people participated in an interactive digital conference held in the American Red Cross Disaster Operations Center in Washington, D.C. Experts the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Refugees International, United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), American Red Cross, George Washington University, United Nations Women and others engaged in lively debates, directly answering viewers’ questions in real-time via social media platforms. The entire webcast is also available online.
The weekend experience was just a small window into the horrific reality that millions face on a daily basis. But through the simulation and learning opportunities, hundreds of people now have a better understanding of the daily struggles of displaced people around the world.
Red Cross and Refugees
View a new slideshow of what we’re doing to help refugees in Chad, who have fled the violence in the Central African Republic
Learn about the stories of pain and hope shared by Syrian refugees in Jordan
Explore an interactive map of how the ICRC helps IDPs in Colombia
Read the latest reconnection story on the Restoring Family Links blog.