Refugees, Religion, and Resistance:
A European Mass Migration Crisis Simulation

“We do not know who these people are, what their plans are, how they wish to maintain their own ideals, and we do not know if they will respect our culture and laws. This is an unregulated, uncontrolled process, the definition of which is invasion.”

“I am convinced that, handled properly, today’s great task presented by the influx and the integration of so many people is an opportunity for tomorrow”

"We need efficient controls to prevent so many unregistered asylum-seekers keeping on entering via Austria … [Border police] should be able if need be to have recourse to their firearms -- as laid down by law.”
The current large-scale influx of refugees into the European Union presents unprecedented challenges for governments, relief agencies and the general population alike. The rapidity of the mass migration into Europe has left little time for receiving governments, host-nation citizens and the refugees themselves to prepare for a crisis of unexpected proportions, let alone tackle its roots in the Middle East. Refugees continue to pour across porous European borders in masses, presenting not only heretofore unseen political, economic, social and logistical challenges but also undermine the very essence of the European spirit and the foundations of the peaceful coexistence of a continent that had been ravaged by war and conflict for centuries.

The unceasing influx of refugees into Europe, and especially Germany is increasingly creating tension and uncertainty. The German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees registered nearly 1.1 million asylum seekers and the EU Commission estimates that more than three million more refugees may enter Europe between spring 2016 and the end of 2017. Many German towns and cities are calling for help, but the government appears to be rudderless. Pressure is mounting quickly for Chancellor Angela Merkel to act. But act how?

To date, the EU does not have a commonly accepted policy for how refugees ought to be absorbed into member countries and tension between many European governments are mounting. The EU’s Dublin Regulation that came into force in 1997 simply states that refugees must file for asylum in the EU country of arrival. Plagued by the impact of the crisis and haunted by Germany’s historical burden, the Merkel government suspended the Dublin Regulation in August 2015 for refugees arriving in Hungary to enable them to legally file for asylum in Germany. The Hungarian government’s staunch opposition to allowing refugees into the EU eventually resulted, among other anti-migration policies, in the installation of a fence along its borders to keep refugees out. After suspending the Dublin Regulation, hundreds of thousands of refugees set out for Germany by foot, train and bus.

Initially, the German population welcomed refugees mostly with open arms and showed support: greeting refugees singing at train stations, donating food and clothes and volunteering their time to help. Within a few weeks, however, and as the challenges became more apparent, the welcoming culture in Germany shifted. Right-wing demonstrations and arson attacks on asylum homes increased. Since an estimated one thousand allegedly male refugees sexually harassed women on New Year’s Eve 2015 in the German city of Cologne, Germany’s welcoming spirit is being replaced by increasing uncertainty and fear.

This role-play simulation is designed to develop an understanding of the complexities of global migration and, more specifically the current refugee crisis in Europe. Since Germany is destination to the largest number of refugees within the European Union, the simulation is set in a small fictional East German town where several national and local scenarios will unfold.

The simulation encourages critical thinking about current policy dilemmas by placing participants in the roles of refugees, public officials, administrators, and concerned citizens. Participants will experience some of the strategic and tactical challenges involved in managing and resolving complex policy decisions with impact at the local, national and global levels.

Purpose of the simulation

Through role-play, the simulation puts participants in scenario contexts that emphasize the complexity of the current crises and its underlying policy implications. While playing through the simulation, participants are encouraged not only to play their assigned role as authentically as they can, but also to evaluate their own positions, perceptions and behaviors. Through role-play, participants will be able to relate to the crisis scenario(s) and to similar policymaking contexts in a more nuanced, critical and empathic way. As the simulation unfolds, participants are continuously asked to respond to emerging conflicts and to develop creative solutions to policy and decision dilemmas.

Learning objectives for this simulation include:
  • Draw attention to and develop empathy for the complexity of international migration in general and the current refugee crisis in specific.
  • Understand and personally relate to the multicultural and intercultural dynamics that affect the refugee crises.
  • Familiarize participants with immigration policies and regulations in the European Union.
  • Appreciate and recognize the complexity between local, national and international (migration) policies.
  • Understand and learn to navigate the relationships between government, non-governmental organizations, private sector corporations and the general public.

Themes/Concepts to be highlighted as part of the simulation include:
  • International migration
  • European politics
  • National identity (host nation and refugee population)
  • Religious conflict
  • Interplay between state and local politics
  • Public policy management and administration
  • Mass migration impact on:
    • Economics
    • Local politics
    • Security
    • Resources
  • Inter- and Intra-governmental emergency response
  • Organizational crisis communication