This lesson is designed to help students gain insight into the experience of African refugees immigrating to the United States of America.
Students will be able to:
- Assess the definition of refugee in relation to the concept of well-founded fear by analyzing the criteria and experiences which qualify one as a refugee.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the asylum process for refugees to the United States by reviewing the procedures and creating a profile of an applicant for asylum.
Suggested Instructional Procedures
- According to the United Nations a refugee is a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his[her] nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself [herself] of the protection of that country.” Ask the class to consider this definition. Break the definition down into key components and discuss what those components might mean, such as: well-founded fear; persecution; inability or unwillingness to return to country of origin; race, religion, nationality, social group, political opinion.
- As a class discuss the following questions:
- What are some reasons why people are persecuted?
- What conditions would make a person have a well-founded fear of persecution?
- What is the difference between being afraid and persecuted?
- What makes a fear well founded?
- How could a person prove he/she has been persecuted?
- Using direct instruction, review the procedures for gaining asylum with the students.
- As a small group or individual activity, assign students one of the following countries: Sudan, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda or any other country with a current refugee situation.
- Ask students to adopt the identity of that profile and review the procedures for gaining asylum at U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Service.
- Explain that their group will use internet resources to gather information and create a profile of a person seeking asylum and assign them the task of beginning to compile the basic components of an application for asylum. These components include a completed Form I589, or application for asylum, and evidence of country conditions to back up their story. Reports on country conditions can be found on the web at Human Rights Watch, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, or Amnesty International.
- After the students have compiled their "applications," gather as a group and discuss each profile.
- What kinds of evidence did you need to tell your story?
- What constituted your "well-founded fear?"
- What personal protected characteristic did you invoke in your application?
- What do you think your chances are of receiving asylum?
- What will happen to you if you don't?
- Do these conditions constitute persecution? For whom? Do persons from these countries have well-founded fears? Why or why not?
- Discuss the implications of the asylum process for refugees
Asylum: granting of legal refuge by the government to the citizen of another country who may not return due to fear of persecution
Persecution: persistent ill treatment or harassment; generally refers to any severe violation of human rights. In the refugee context, persecution refers to any act by which fundamental rights are severely violated for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group
Political asylum: most commonly mentioned form of asylum common during Cold War to refer to status of Soviet exile
Refugee: Under international law, a refugee is a person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution; refugees are a subgroup of the broader category of displaced persons
Refugee resettlement: Permanent relocation of refugees in a place outside their country of origin to allow them to establish residence and become productive members of society there. Refugee resettlement is accomplished with the direct assistance of private voluntary agencies working with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement
Well-founded fear: a key component of the definition of a refugee, well founded fear usually refers to a fear of persecution that is credible and believable because of evidence or past violence, threats, and/or harassment, or related prevailing political/cultural conditions
Related Resources for Students
Plans in this Unit
About the Author
These lessons were created by Stephanie Felix and Katherine Wilson. Updated for SAS by Danielle J. Gross, Education Intern, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Teacher Advisory Committee for the Project:
Alice Asbury, J.S. Jenks School, Philadelphia, PA
Asia Austin Colter, Imhotep Institute Charter High School, Philadelphia, PA
Karen V. Davis, Henry C. Lea Middle School, Philadelphia, PA
Melvin Garrison, Office of Curriculum Support, School District of Philadelphia
Pamula Hart, Myers Elementary School, Cheltenham, PA
Dr. Carolyn L. Holmes, African and African American Studies Department, School District of Philadelphia
Adolphus Jacobs, Preparatory Charter School, Philadelphia, PA
Tanya Kunevich, Lamberton Middle School, Philadelphia, PA
Margaret H. Lonzetta, World Affairs Council of Philadelphia
Patricia Mitchell Doe, Tilden Middle School, Philadelphia, PA
Dianne Partee, African and African American Studies Department, School District of Philadelphia
Stephanie Joy Tisdale, Central High School, Philadelphia, PA
Stephen Togba, Imhotep Charter School, Philadelphia, PA
Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, African Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania
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