The experiment, a workshop titled 'A Day in the Life of a Refugee' took place in the basement level of a luxury hotel but aimed to recreate the unsettling and frightening experience of fleeing one's country. To help with the role play, participants were given a new name and identity.
The simulation included filling out identity papers, bargaining for food using their valuables (watches, mobile phones and jewellery) and receiving orders from soldiers – some of whom were played by former refugees.
Uniformed and bearing fake weapons, the soldiers shouted at the participants. According to Blick, which had a reporter on the scene, one of them yelled “You're nothing, you're shit, I don't care if you die”.
Suzan G. LeVine, the US Ambassador to Switzerland, took to Facebook to praise the experience. “The program is designed to give people a tiny taste of what many of the 60 million refugees are experiencing on a daily basis,” she said. “They had us use ID cards, cover our hair (for women), experience abuse, endure sensory overload, feel humiliated, and more.”
Ambassador Suzan G. LeVine speaks to one of the people behind A Day in the Life of a Refugee.
Some of the participants were reportedly moved to tears by the experience, and organizers Crossroads Foundation said “Halfway through the week, we're already seeing many, many people leave resolved to help. Participants are finding that the emotional connection with the crisis is far more lasting than data and rhetoric”.
Crossroads Foundation explained the goal of the project: “It's an intense experience being thrust into the shoes of a refugee, even just for 75 minutes. Dead bodies, gunfire and orders shouted in foreign languages can unsettle participants, and lead to a deeper empathy of the challenges of real refugees.”
All photos: David McIntyre/Crossroads Foundation Ltd/Flickr.