To live is to choose.
But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want
to go and why you want to get there.

Kofi Annan


This activity uses discussion and diamond ranking to help people understand what it is like to suddenly flee one’s home.

Related rights

• Right to seek asylum in other countries from persecution
• Freedom of religion or belief
• Freedom of opinion and information


• To develop understanding about what it is like to have to flee
  your home
• To practise decision making and consensus building skills
• To foster empathy and solidarity with refugees


• Post-its or small squares of paper (approx 8cm x 8cm), 3 per participant
• Pens or pencils, one per participant

Key Date
  • 18 DecemberInternational Migrants Day


1. Introduce the topic of migration by brainstorming the reasons why people move to live elsewhere.
2.  Explain that in the activity they are going to imagine that they are being forced to flee their homes. Refer to the brainstorm and point out the "push factors" that cause people to flee, for instance war, natural disasters, persecution or terrorism. Then ask the group to guess how many displaced people there are in the world.
3.  Now ask them to get into small groups, and hand out the small pieces of paper and pencils.
4.  Ask everyone to imagine that they have to flee their home suddenly for a particular reason and that they can only take three things with them. Which three things would they take? They should write one thing on each piece of paper.
5.  Next, ask each person in turn to present their choices and to explain the reasons for their decisions.
6.  Now tell the participants to work together to discuss the various choices and reasons, to try to come to a consensus, and to prioritise the items using diamond ranking .
7.  Finally let them go round and see the results of each group's work.

Debriefing and evaluationGoto top

Begin by reviewing how each group ranked the items and then go on to discuss what participants learnt, and what the implications are for human rights.

  • Were there any surprising items people wanted to take with them?
  • Was it easy to rank the items? What sorts of differences of opinion were there within the groups?
  • How similar or how different were the different group's rankings?
  • How practical were people? Did they think mainly about their physical survival or did they also think about their emotional or spiritual needs?
  • How difficult would it be if you really had to flee?
  • What would people miss most if they had to flee?
  • Do they know anyone who has fled their home?
  • Is the activity realistic? Can people always choose what to take with them?
  • What about children and young people? Are their specific needs likely to be taken into account when their parents are packing?
  • What can we do to draw attention to the needs of refugees in our community (or across the world)?
  • Which human rights specifically protect refugees?

Tips for facilitatorsGoto top

When introducing the activity, try to get participants to think about migration in general. Examples of why people move are for study and work, because it is their way of life, because of flooding, earthquake or drought, war and persecution. At the end of the brainstorming, summarise the different reasons people give for moving into two lists, according to whether they are "push" (war or persecution in the home country) or "pull" (better opportunities for work and study in another country) factors.

According to the UNHCR, by the end of 2010 there were:
– 10,55 million refugees
– 14.7 million internally
displaced persons and 3,5 million stateless people.

At step 4 you will need to set the scenario so that participants are working within the same framework. Choose a situation that will be most appropriate or interesting for the group. "War" can be challenging if no-one has had direct experience of it, but a scenario involving a terrorist attack could be more realistic. Try to create a scenario that can be imagined as a possibility. If you choose "flooding" as a cause, then if your town is in a valley, it makes sense to say that the river level is rising and flash floods threaten to sweep away bridges and water will flood the whole surrounding area. On the other hand, if you live in a hilly or mountainous area, then danger may be of heavy rains that cause a landslide of mud engulfing the town. You may need to clarify that people should imagine that they are fleeing their own homes, that they will not be able to return and that they have to move a long way away for a long time, possibly for ever.

The items people choose, and how practical they are, will depend on the maturity of the participants. What people take will also depend on many factors, for instance the weather, the time of year and the reason they are fleeing. For example, if there is flooding and they cannot swim they may take something to use as a raft. It is important to stress that there are no right and wrong answers when it comes to personal choice and preference, although there may be some choices that are wiser and more practical than others.

There are definitions and explanations about the differences between "refugees", "IDPs", "asylum seekers", and "migrant workers" in the background information about migration in Chapter 5

When asked, asylum seekers in Denmark who had fled from war and persecution all said that they took money as a first priority. A passport or ID was important, "but you can always buy false documents if you need them," they said. The same goes for warm clothes and food; with money you can always get things. For a few, a Bible was a priority to sustain their spiritual needs.

It is suggested that you use diamond ranking and post-its, firstly because making absolute choices is difficult and unnatural and secondly because the method is concrete and the papers (and thoughts) can easily be reorganised as the discussion proceeds.

VariationsGoto top

This method can be used to explore people's attitudes to aspects of all the themes. For instance,

  • Children: What are the 3 most important features of a happy childhood?
  • Citizenship and Participation: What are the 3 most important qualities a person needs to live in a multicultural society?
  • Culture and Sport: What 3 aspects of your culture are most important to you?
  • Democracy: What are the 3 most important things a country needs in order to be able to have a well functioning democracy?
  • Disability and Disablism: Getting about is a problem for many people with disabilities. What would be the 3 most effective improvements that could be made in our city, for instance, a blind person?
  • Discrimination and Intolerance: You are going on a long train journey and will have to share your carriage with people from different countries. Choose the 3 nationalities you would most like to share with. (You can extend the activity by adding, which 3 would you least like to share with?)
  • Education: To promote communication and understanding between peoples, which 3 languages should be taught as world languages to children worldwide?
  • Environment: Which 3 endangered species should the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) target in their next campaign?
  • Gender: Name 3 main reasons why gender-based discrimination still exists.
  • Globalisation: Which 3 of the Millennium Development Goals are the most important for you?
  • Health: Tobacco, cocaine, alcohol, hash, ephedrine, Viagra? Which 3 drugs do young people in your country most need more information about?
  • Media: Which 3 innovations in the media in the past 10 years have contributed most to the promotion of human rights?
  • Migration: If you had to flee your country, which 3 countries would you most like to live in?
  • Peace and Violence: What are the 3 biggest threats to global peace?
  • Poverty: Which 3 steps / actions would be the most successful to eliminate poverty?
  • Religion and Belief: What are the 3 most effective things that can be done to combat the spread of fundamentalism?
  • Remembrance: Think of a monument in your town that commemorates a historical event or think of a historical event that is not commemorated. Suggest 3 ways that the event could be publicly recognised so that it can be documented and learned about without distortion or misuse.
  • War and Terrorism: There is now an international agreement about banning landmines; which 3 weapons should be banned next?
  • Work: Which 3 violations of the right to decent work concern you most?

Suggestions for follow-upGoto top

If the group would like to explore what it is like leaving home and seeking asylum, they could do the activity "Can I come in?" or "Language barrier ".

Thinking about past events evokes all sorts of memories; if the group would like to think about how memories are evoked by public war memorials, then they could use the activity "Memory tags" .

Ideas for actionGoto top

Ask family, friends or colleagues which 3 things they would take with them and provoke a discussion about human rights and refugees.
Find an organisation locally that is working with asylum seekers and refugees and find out how you can assist with their work.