Limbo

The Guardian

What is it like to flee your home and start again in a new country? Asylum seekers live on £5 a day while they wait to hear whether they can stay in the UK. This virtual reality film for The Guardian allows you to experience how this period of limbo feels, waiting for a decision that will affect the rest of your life.

Between April 2016 and March 2017, 36,846 people applied for asylum in the UK. As of March, a backlog in cases meant the total number of people still waiting for a decision stood at nearly 31,500. While asylum seekers wait for their Home Office interview and the subsequent decision, they live on £5 a day and are unable to work or choose where they live. In Limbo you step into their shoes and experience their state of mind while you wait for the decision that will determine the rest of your life.

ScanLAB Projects | The Guardian VR: Limbo
ScanLAB Projects | The Guardian VR: Limbo

The piece was made after conducting interviews with asylum seekers from 12 countries as well as immigration lawyers and barristers. The voices in the soundtrack are those of real refugees who guide the viewer through the experience – from arriving in an unfamiliar city to acute worry for loved ones left behind, concern about not being allowed to work, and the Home Office interview on which so much rides . They spoke about the often slow and painful process of the application and the subsequent wait to be reunited with their families. The Home Office aims to make an initial decision within six months, but many wait longer than this. Despite access to services from refugee charities, for the most part they are unable to travel, work or learn English.

ScanLAB Projects | The Guardian VR: Limbo
ScanLAB Projects | The Guardian VR: Limbo

Guardian VR wanted to capture the sense of isolation that many interviewees spoke about, caught between two lives, that of the place they left and the new one they hope to build. The sketch-like aesthetic has the quality of a dream or nightmare where worlds are transparent and fragmented.

The work journeys through a collaged world of real spaces - combining mobile mapping of the City of Manchester, terrestrial scans of various properties across the UK and a series of live action 3D scanned people. This live action element of the project brings the digital world to life; shoppers pass by on their mobiles, a dog barks, a barista serves coffee and, crucially, the final interviewer looms around you firing questions in the final scene.

The experience is optimised for the the Guardians own VR app, but Youtube 360, Vimeo, Facebook 360 and Gear VR versions were also prepared, all in 4K 3D with binaural sound where appropriate.

ScanLAB Projects | The Guardian VR: Limbo
ScanLAB Projects | The Guardian VR: Limbo
ScanLAB Projects | The Guardian VR: Limbo