Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

Europe, Fortress Europe, Human Rights, Refugees

The Asylum “Game”

The Asylum Game was originally developed for Swedish national TV. The object of the Norwegian version of the game is to try to replicate the dangers, the perils the reality faced by migrants trying to reach Europe (in this case Norway) from Liberia and Iran. Once you get there the aim is to be granted asylum. The game gives you several choices along the way, you have to choose the correct one every time. After every part of your journey the game shows real footage from different situations, and it also gives important information about refugees and migration.

A Norweigian friend of mine played the game and wrote this up for me in her own words.

“In the game you can choose between being Parvin (19) from Iran or James (26) from Liberia. I choose James. I need to leave my country because I have been imprisoned for human rights activism and I want to go to Norway because I have an uncle there. My first choice is between getting on a ship as a stowaway, or to hitchhike north. I choose the ship. After nine days at sea I am discovered, and thrown overboard. I die.

Luckily you are allowed to cheat, and I start all over again. I hitchhiked north, over the border to Mali, to the city Gao, close to the Sahara desert.

I then needed to find someone to help me get through the desert. After being put in prison twice for trusting the wrong man, I cheat and find a man who can help me, and who also sells false passports. I have now been on the run for 691 days and I am still only in Mali.

The man offers me three different passports. I need to choose the right one to enter Algeria. The choice is between a Malian, a Guinean or a Moroccan one. I choose the Moroccan one because it is an Arab country and I assume that will make it easier to cross the border to another Arab country.

I walk through Sahara carrying my new passport. I die from thirst after 707 days on the run. I am now dead twice. I try again and die from thirst again, by now I am very frustrated because my computer is so hard to control. My stress level is rising. Instead of trying a third time I cheat.

On the border to Algeria we are stopped by Algerian Border Police. My Moroccan passport is no good without a visa, and the police take me into the desert and shoot me. I am told that the passport from Mali was the only one I could have used. How was I supposed to know? I get irritated, who do they think I am? Then I realize that this is reality for a lot of people, and that they only get one chance. I feel embarrassed. I cheat, again.

By cheating I get through the desert, but I have stomach ache, my leg is swollen and I have an infected wound.

I go through Morocco in local busses. In Tangiers I can see Spain on the other side. I get the choice between getting in to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta with my false passport or buy a seat in a small boat. I choose to go to Ceuta and am deported back to Morocco.

I try the boat. We have to swim the last stretch. I drown. I try again. I drown again. By now I´m dead six times. I get angry with my computer again. My fingers hurt. I cheat again and get into Spain. Finally I´m in Europe. I´m sick and have to go to the doctor. This is impossible without getting into the system by seeking asylum. I refrain, but after a few weeks the police catch me and I have to seek asylum in Spain after all. In the process I have my fingerprints taken.

I decide to go on to Norway where my uncle lives. I get a place in a container, but it is full of people and I have to arrange so everyone gets in or else the truck leaves without me. I try twice with no success, and have to cheat again. The truck is found days later, all the refugees are dead. I guess I had some luck for once. I cheat again and finally get to Norway.

In Norway I discover that I can’t seek asylum because of the Dublin convention, which says that if you have applied for asylum in one Schengen country you can not apply in any other. Because my fingerprints were taken by Spanish police I burn them away to avoid being found in the European fingerprint register, Eurodac.

I seek asylum and am rejected. I cheat and try the wheel of fortune again, and after about five tries I am finally granted asylum. I realize that I am no longer 26 years old, I am now over 30 and have to start my life over. I also realize that I am one of the lucky ones that actually made it. I cheated more than 15 times.

Now I´m exhausted, tomorrow I´ll try my luck as Parvin.”


  1. ohmygoodness.

    I could feel my blood pressure rise just from reading that. Seriously, I got quite frantic.

    I cannot even begin to imagine that people actually go through that.

    I don’t know if you meant for this posting to coincide with World Refugee Day, but it’s the best thing I’ve read on the subject by far today. Very provocative game, that.

    Thanks for sharing.

    *Slinks away, shaking head in disbelief*


  2. That’s powerful.

    I had an adopted brother, Xhosa, who was basically smuggled across Africa to the UK by church groups after being hassled by S African police at the age of 13 or 14 — this would have been in the late fifties.

  3. Comment by post author


    Rombo – yes its pretty horrific – but from the people I have spoken to here in Spain and in Cyprus it is a very accurate experience and 1 to 2 years is about right in terms of the journey.

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