Amnesty International Campaign Replaces Black Immigrants With White Actors In Controversial Video

06/19/2013 11:58 am ET

A new video produced by Amnesty International sparked a fierce debate on immigration and race after pointedly reversing traditional racial roles.

The clip envisions a hypothetical scenario in which white European immigrants are harassed after seeking asylum in a generically African nation.

The "immigrants" are fleeing conflict in their home of London, according to the video, which Amnesty notes portrays a fictional refugee situation.

"It was bad at home; we had to leave," a young refugee says. "Dad couldn't come; I don't know where he is now."

The refugees are discovered huddled on a boat, and shouting African soldiers with guns herd them into an immigration detention center.

"They put us in prison," the boy continues. "I don't know what we've done wrong. I'm scared."

On YouTube, Amnesty explains the video is part of the organization's "When You Don't Exist" campaign "for the human rights of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe and at its borders."

The description continues:

Europe is failing migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Negative attitudes to asylum-seekers and migrants are widespread. European countries are stepping up measures to control migration. This can cause serious human rights violations. People on the move have their rights violated, often out of the public eye. They are effectively made invisible.

Media site Upworthy's Rossalyn Warren suggests the video is intended to put the viewer "in the shoes" of the refugee.

But commenters on YouTube and social media sites seem divided on whether the video is actually effective.

"The truth is, this is a HUMAN on HUMAN problem, not a black/white problem," one user wrote on Upworthy's Facebook page. "The warlords in Africa are black against black. Hitler to the Jews was white on white. To make this a racial problem only further divides the races."

"I guess it's 'provocative' but if people lack basic compassion to sympathize with brown refugees in the first place, I feel like we have a bigger problem here," wrote another. "Shame all these white folks had to pretend to be scared and oppressed just to get other people to care about REAL refugees."

On Twitter, however, the response seemed slightly more positive.

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