"It’s too dangerous for you in your country. For your safety, you decide that you must leave behind everything you know and head to the U.S. You aren’t certain you will be able to get there. You’re even less certain you’ll be allowed to stay."
"How long can you last before you give up?"
These are the opening lines of a new game called 'Waiting Game' which "simulates the experience of trying to seek asylum in the United States" designed to give users a perspective of the long, arduous journey which the asylum seekers undertake to reach a safe haven, and still the challenges for them are far from over.
The project launched by ProPublica, a U.S. based investigative journalism website, along with the NPR-affiliated New York City-based radio channel, WNYC, and Playmatics, is based on the case files of five asylum seekers from around the world, who sought asylum with the U.S. on different grounds, based on race, religion, nationality, affiliation to a particular social group, and facing persecution for voicing political opinion.
The game entails "years-long wait lists, bewildering legal arguments, an extended stay in detention," the game's website noted. "Follow the path of immigrants fleeing violence or persecution, and get a glimpse into the complicated, evolving system designed to grant them refuge in the United States."
The interactive portal's storyline branches out to follow the lives of five people, whose names were not revealed to protect their identities. The five people from varying backgrounds, are "an ethnically Tibetan man facing discrimination in Nepal," "a man who married outside his religion in Bangladesh," "an Ethiopian deported to Eritrea because of his nationality," "a domestic violence survivor in El Salvador, " "A student protester in the Democratic Republic of Congo."
The overarching narrative charts the journey of these asylum-seekers not only facing challenges while in their home countries, but also an uncertain future in the U.S. despite having being granted asylum.
ProPublica spoke with "over 20 experts and stakeholders who study and work in the asylum system, including lawyers, immigration judges, historians, policy experts, an asylum officer, a former border patrol agent and a former ICE prosecutor," the organization's website noted.
"In any system, of course, there are going to be some bad actors and some weaknesses people seek to exploit," Doris Meissner, the former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1993 to 2000, said, according to Pro Publica.