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Swiss fund Nollywood series to keep African migrants out

The Swiss government is funding a Nigerian television series to scare off potential African migrants from coming to Switzerland.

Published: February 25, 2017, 10:38 am

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    Bern

    The Nollywood series avoids the traditional tourist lures, friendly faces featuring with sunny landscapes, snow-capped mountains, lakes and outdoor cafés, Swiss news agencies reported on Monday.

    Called Missing Steps, the series containing 13 episodes is being filmed both in Nigeria and Switzerland by a Nigerian film crew and carries a hefty $450,000 price tag.

    A young Nigerian, denied asylum by Swiss authorities and now living in Switzerland illegally, is the protagonist of the Swiss-Nigerian co-production. It was made as part of the migration partnership signed by the two countries in 2011 to aid the return of Nigerians to their home country.

    The story follows “Joshua” who comes to Switzerland and discovers that life isn’t as good as he thought it would be. Living in Switzerland is in fact a daily battle.

    “We want to provide objective information on migration, showing that the crossing [of the Mediterranean] is dangerous and that the chances of Nigerians being granted asylum are low. We also intend to explain that life for illegal immigrants in Switzerland is not easy,” said Lukas Rieder, spokesman for the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), which funded the project.

    “We have seen that a lack of information or false information is one of the main problems that leads to illegal migration,” he added.

    “Human traffickers tell potential migrants that Switzerland is paradise, it’s Eldorado. But that’s not true. We want to provide objective information about the dangers of passage, and the dangers of living in Switzerland without a permit, for example”.

    Amnesty International criticised the campaign. “Clearly migrants should be informed correctly on Swiss law and asylum process,” the organisation’s Denise Graf told swissinfo.ch.

    “But first of all Switzerland should work to improve the human rights situation and the allocation of resources in Nigeria.”

    In 2016, 27 207 asylum applications were lodged in Switzerland. Of these, 1 106 came from Nigerian citizens (4.1 percent). The same year, only three people received asylum and six were granted temporary admission (of 1 261 cases examined).

    This is not the first attempt by the Swiss to keep Africans out of the Confederation. In 2007, Switzerland funded a two-minute advert in several African countries such as Cameroon and Nigeria to dissuade potential travellers from attempting the journey.

    The hard-hitting advert, which aired on prime-time television in both West African countries, depicts the life of newly arrived migrants in Europe as one fraught with unhappiness, hostility and danger.

    In the short film an African migrant phones his father from an unspecified location in Europe in the pouring rain and assures him that all is well while in reality he is living on the street, being chased by the police and having to beg for a living.

    Switzerland is also not the only country to fund similar campaigns, with Germany, Italy and Australia producing videos with negative messages aimed at migrants.

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