Speaking for Ourselves

Roll the asylum dice

Roll the asylum dice

Helen Davey

 Migrant Voice - Roll the asylum dice

Have Your Passport Ready is an interactive choose-your-own-adventure that offers an insight into the lives of Syrian refugee brothers battling the hostile environment that is the UK’s asylum system. 

Simple and effective, this free film-meets-video game allows players to engage with the stories of Khaled and Mohammad Aljawad as they struggle to get by in Sheffield on the £37.75 a week asylum seeker’s allowance.

I was deeply moved by their stories: the spinal injury that Mohammad has lived with since being forced from a young age to carry 20 litres of water a day, and both hardly able to afford bread, let alone medical treatment. And in Britain, having to repeatedly provide evidence to support their asylum claim is dispiriting and degrading. 

roll the asylum dice

The virtual dice rolls and interviews conducted with caseworkers illustrate the unpredictability, hostility and miscommunication that occur in the rushed and often debilitating setting of the Home Office’s asylum programme. While some scenes illustrate the brothers’ experiences of claiming asylum, there are opportunities for players themselves to become asylum seekers, forced to decide, for example, whether to wait three months for another meeting about their claim or risk meeting without legal supervision. 

roll the asylum dice

I was deeply disturbed by the invasive nature of the questions posed by one of the caseworkers, in which she thinks I’m a gay asylum seeker and proceeds, in her own words, to “shame [me] into proving it”—a line of interrogation the role-play has taken from real-life experiences. Obviously, this would be immeasurably more disturbing to those who are actually seeking asylum because of their sexual orientation. 

The brothers’ story could have engaged more with the process of rejection and perhaps even tackled problems such as housing and detention, but it’s good that this and other films, plays and online games are trying to take the inhumanity of the British asylum system to a wider audience. Experience and interaction are vital for ensuring empathy and understanding for Britain’s greatly misunderstood refugee community, and this game contributes to that end. 

The production’s creative director, Rosie MacPherson, says “Stand Up And Be Counted Theatre is Britain’s first ‘theatre of sanctuary’. One of its aims is to give a platform to asylum seekers … we make ‘campaign theatre’ and enable voices to be heard.” Both brothers had a big hand in the production, and one of them even wrote the script.

“We have also reached a whole new audience,” MacPherson says. “In its first month it was played by 11,000 people – a touring show doesn’t get those numbers.” It is now being made available to education departments as a resource. And because it’s free, it’s more likely to be tried by younger audiences with no previous knowledge of refugees. 

For more info: Have your Passport Ready

All photos by: Smart Banda

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Phone: +44 (0) 207 832 5824
Email: [email protected]

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Number: 1142963 (England and Wales); SC050970 (Scotland)

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