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Look refugees in the eye: Poignant video experiment breaks down barriers


A poignant new video experiment breaking down barriers between Europeans and recently-arrived refugees will be launched by Amnesty International tomorrow (25 May).

The five-minute video, Look Beyond Borders, is based on a theory developed by psychologist Arthur Aron in 1997, that four minutes of uninterrupted eye contact increases intimacy. Amnesty International Poland and Polish ad agency DDB&Tribal applied the method to the refugee crisis, asking refugees from Syria and Somalia who have been in Europe for less than a year and people from the UK, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Poland to literally look into each other’s eyes.

The video, filmed in a warehouse near Berlin’s Cold War-era crossing Checkpoint Charlie last month, shows natural, spontaneous reactions between people meeting for the first time, with overwhelmingly positive results.

 Draginja Nadażdin, Director of Amnesty International Poland, said:

“It takes a heart of stone to watch this video without shedding a tear. Today, when the world appears rife with division and conflict, it is always worthwhile to look at everything from another person’s perspective.

“Too often, what gets lost in the numbers and headlines is the suffering of actual people, who, like us, have families, friends, their own stories, dreams and goals. What if we stopped for just a moment and looked at who they really are?

“Borders exist between countries, not people. And it is imperative that our governments start putting people before borders and their own short-term political gain.”

Hanna Waśko, from ad agency Big Picture which is helping with distribution of the video, said:

“We conducted the experiment in Berlin because the city symbolises the overcoming of divisions. In that sense, the most important thing is to give people time to understand each other better and get to know one another.” 


On 19 May, Amnesty International’s Refugees Welcome Index showed that 80% of people surveyed across 27 countries said they would let a refugee live in their country, 10% in their own home. The general public in China, Germany and the UK came out as the most accepting of refugees.

In Germany, where the video was filmed, 96% said they would let refugees live in their country.

In the UK, 76% of said they would accept a refugee in their neighbourhood or home and 70% said the government should be doing more to help people fleeing war and persecution.


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