Students at the Capital City Academy in Brent.
Students at the Capital City Academy in Brent.

Pupils stage performance based on undocumented migrants’ experiences

Pupils at a secondary school in London put on a performance about the real-life stories of undocumented migrants, based on interviews carried out by Oxford University researchers at COMPAS.

The researchers suggest there could be around 120,000 undocumented migrant children living in the UK. ‘Undocumented’ describes migrants who have been refused asylum, overstayed visas, are experiencing problems with their immigration applications or, to a lesser extent, have gained unauthorised entry. The family’s irregular immigration status means that little is known about their lives or the families’ livelihoods in the UK and such children often endure poverty and deprivation without the same level of support given to other migrant children.

The pupils at Capital City Academy in Brent, northwest London, have spent the last few weeks discussing and interpreting five scripted monologues, based on interviews with migrants, at drama classes after school. After working on themes through interpretation and improvisation, they staged a public performance at their school. It highlighted the plight of migrant children and their families, exploring issues such as getting into a school or finding a doctor.

Bridget Anderson, Professor of Migration and Citizenship at Oxford University, said: 'This project is not about who to blame for undocumented migration. It encourages young people to think about what it might be like living in the UK without papers, and to use the knowledge they develop from this process to engage with one of the most critical of contemporary debates.

'Using theatre creates an alternative space to explore the sensitive, politicised issue of migration. Students and the audience have an opportunity to think about the experiences of real people rather than abstract academic arguments.'

The Principal of the school, Alex Thomas, said: 'Capital City Academy is a very diverse school with many students from a refugee and asylum seeker background. When COMPAS first approached us to participate in the project, we were excited by the opportunity to explore these issues with students. This has been a very rewarding opportunity for all involved and students have enjoyed developing the monologues and devising their own work.'

The school performance was followed by a panel discussion involving the audience and information sheets about some of the issues were distributed. The researchers have already completed a similar course of workshops in Thame, Oxfordshire, and will take the project to another secondary school in Birmingham later this year.

The undocumented migrants were interviewed by researchers from COMPAS (Centre on Migration, Policy and Society) for the report, 'No Way In, No Way Out', which was published in May 2012. The drama project with schools was funded by the Economic Social Research Council.