Thu, 24 Sep 2020

Austria probes 'refugee role play' in Vienna school

24 Jan 2020, 07:12 GMT+10

Austria's education ministry said on Thursday it has launched an investigation into a role-playing exercise at a Vienna secondary school in which pupils were reportedly treated as refugees at a border post.

Austrian media reports said the pupils aged 12 to 14 years were forced to wear ribbons identifying them as asylum seekers and made to wait in rooms for hours with no information as to what was going on.

The experience was apparently designed to show them what refugees face while seeking asylum.

The education ministry said in a statement that a probe had begun and that the project would be stopped "with immediate effect".

"A line seems to have been crossed here. Scaring pupils is not an educational concept," the statement said.

Vienna city education authorities also criticised the fact that parents had apparently not been informed of the exercise.

Flo Staffelmayr of the theatre company Viewpoint, which oversaw the programme, said it had received positive feedback, dismissing the criticism as "politically motivated" and aimed at stifling "a director who dared to do something special".

Staffelmayr said a team of pupils and teachers at the school had themselves come up with the "experience migration project".

It comprised "border controls, queues, questioning through border patrols, arbitrariness and absurd tests", according to the theatre company's website.

Similar workshops have previously been put on in Austria and other countries, including in schools.

Austria has been led since 2017 by conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who won votes on an anti-immigration platform. His previous coalition with the far right collapsed in May 2019, but he was re-elected in September, this time forming a coalition with the Greens.

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