By Clémence Richard

On Tuesday 8 February, Secours Catholique (Caritas France), together with the Association des cités du Secours Catholique (ACSC), ran a workshop on the lack of free movement of persons. The participants recreated migrants’ journeys via a board game, and were able to communicate with immigrants in Paris via videoconferencing.

In the courtyard of Dakar’s Cheikh Anta Diop University (UCAD), African, Asian and French people are gathered around four tables. They’re all set to retrace migrants’ journeys. On each table is a board representing Africa, the Americas and Asia. The players’ task is to move their characters – migrants – towards their final destinations. Nguyen, a person welcomed by Secours Catholique who is taking part in the WSF, is paying attention to what might happen to her character, Jairo, a Guatemalan herdsman who wants to go to the United States to earn a better living. Each time she moves Jairo forward, she reads out a card that tells her what will happen to her character. Will he be able to make progress? Will he find work? Will he be sent back to his country? So far, she’s managed to get him as far as Mexico, on the border with the United States. “He’s almost there,” says Nguyen enthusiastically. However, she remains guarded concerning his possible victory. “The character can be caught by the police and put in jail at any moment,” she says, pointing to the square on the board that represents the detention centre.

This game was invented by members of Secours Catholique and the Association des cités du Secours Catholique (ACSC). “The objective is to make some observations on the causes of migration and the consequences of closing borders. The migrants’ journeys described in the game are based on true accounts gathered in our centres and on the internet,” explains Thierry Guérin, assistant director of collective action at Secours Catholique. “This game allows the players to form their own picture of migration, and then we share ideas together on prospects for free movement of persons.” One of the players, William Kodgo Tsolonyanu from Togo, informs his partners that “Africans don’t have an idyllic view of Europe. Nevertheless we must change their mentality by convincing them that we have resources in Africa. Unfortunately, our governments have a hand in the difficult situations we’re experiencing. I’ve no idea how we can avoid that.”

At the end of the morning, Cécilia, who’s in charge of coordination at Secours Catholique, passes among the players and their observers with a computer. She’s linked up with Paris. So around 60 people in Paris can take part in the workshops being held in Dakar. They include several migrants brought along by ASCS and Secours Catholique. Father Singa, executive secretary of Caritas Central African Republic, has been observing the game all morning. He addresses the participants in Paris via the computer’s camera: “Through this game, I’ve become fully aware of the difficulties that immigrants face. They’re hungry, they’re sick and often they’re sent from one country to another. It’s time for politicians to find solutions for people who are seeking a better future. There’s no such place as El Dorado. Happiness is in our heads and our hands.”

Later, Secours Catholique and Caritas members accompanied by WSF participants take over a UCAD classroom. A live videoconference is underway with the Parisians. “If things were shared out fairly, everyone could live normally in their respective countries,” says Aloise Sarr, head of the reception centre for refugees and immigrants at Caritas Dakar, from the packed UCAD classroom. In Paris, an African man raises his hand to speak: “Can we completely open up borders? Would there be enough room to avoid economic and social problems?”. For more than an hour, an exchange was thus possible between the WSF participants and those who were unable to attend in person.

At the end of the workshop, Secours Catholique and Emmaus submitted a list of proposals to the WSF organising committee.