Switzerland's right-wing government is funding a television advertising campaign in Africa that depicts Africans begging and being arrested in Europe in an attempt to deter would-be immigrants from travelling to the Continent in search of work and a better future.
The adverts, which have been aired on prime-time television in Nigeria and Cameroon, show African immigrants in Europe living in asylum camps, begging on the streets, being arrested by police but also phoning home and pretending they are faring well.
"Fleeing does not mean starting a new life," is the last message of the film which was broadcast on Nigerian state television at half-time during a televised football match between Switzerland and Nigeria last week.
Yesterday, it emerged that the campaign, which is being produced by the well-regarded and Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM), is also being funded by the Swiss government's federal migration office in Berne. The migration office is controlled by Christoph Blocher, the Justice Minister who is opposed to immigration. His Swiss People's Party swept to victory in the general election last month after running a campaign denounced as "openly racist" by the UN.
Mr Blocher, whose party now has its largest recorded majority in parliament, ran an anti-immigration election campaign this year which depicted white sheep standing on a Swiss flag kicking a black sheep from their midst. The slogan accompanying the image was "More Security". He was quoted at the weekend by the Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick saying he fully supported the IOM's campaign. "We must show Africans that Switzerland is not a paradise," he said. A spokesman for the migration office echoed him yesterday: "There is a big potential for immigration in these countries and we want to make it clear that here is not paradise," he said.
The 180,000 advertising campaign is being funded by the Swiss government and the EU and is intended to act as a deterrent to migrants. It starts with a phone ringing in a sparsely furnished home somewhere in Africa. An elderly African picks up the receiver and is shown speaking to his son talking on a public phone from somewhere in Europe while standing in pouring rain.
The father asks if the young man has found accommodation. He says he is staying with friends. Images of an asylum camp under a bridge fill the screen. The son lies to his father that his studies are going well. He is depicted sitting on a kerbstone and begging. Later he is chased and arrested by the police.
Jean-Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the IOM, said: "This film is designed to save lives." He said estimates suggested around 10,000 mainly African immigrants had died, mostly by drowning, while trying to flee to Europe.
A spokesman for Franco Frattini, the vice-president of the European Commission with responsibility for migration, supported the adverts: "We cannot close our eyes to the tragedies that have been occurring for years in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean," he said.Reuse content