Wednesday 21 August 2019

Norway launches Twitter ad campaign to deter refugees

A refugee mother and her child on the shore on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey yesterday
A refugee mother and her child on the shore on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey yesterday

Richard Orange in Malmo

Norway's immigration authorities have launched an advertising campaign in print and social media to deter refugees from seeking asylum in the country, following the controversial campaigns launched in Denmark.

The Norwegian directorate of immigration sent a message out on Twitter on Friday, and again on Monday morning, warning Afghans planning to cross the country's northern border with Russia that they risked forced repatriation - not simply to Moscow but all the way back to Kabul.

Joran Kallmyr, a state secretary in Norway's foreign ministry, confirmed that the tweet was the start of a campaign which would be followed up on Facebook and by newspaper adverts in Russia and other countries.

"Denmark has seen good results from doing this," he told Norway's state broadcaster NRK. Mr Kallmyr is a ministerial appointee from the anti-immigration Progress Party.


"The aim is to get the number down. The refugees choose where they travel based on what they know about the country. Although Denmark is a safe country, relatively few have sought asylum there."

Mr Kallmyr said the coming campaign would, among other things, inform potential asylum seekers of the Norwegian government's proposals to cut the benefits they will receive if they win asylum in the country. "It is better that they discover it in advance than that they are disappointed," he argued.

Denmark's foreign ministry in September published advertisements in four Lebanese newspapers warning Syrian refugees that the country had recently halved the levels of benefits offered to refugees.

The campaign appears to have had some success. Of the 13,000 refugees who passed through Denmark in September, only 1,500 applied for asylum.

Mr Kallmyr said that Norway doesn't intend to spend too much money on the newspaper campaigns, relying instead on Facebook and Twitter.

"The main thing now is to use social media. It is cheap and reaches many people," he said.

Pal Nesse, a senior adviser at the Norwegian Refugee Council, warned that the strategy risked deterring those fleeing persecution.

"We should be most careful with using social and other media to issue warnings in countries from which many asylum seekers have a well-founded fear of persecution," he said. "Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Syria, and neighbouring countries hosting Syrians, are such examples."

In Sweden, the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats this month announced plans to place their own adverts in international papers to deter asylum seekers. "We want, through advertisements in foreign newspapers, to explain that the utopia they want to come to in Sweden no longer exists.

"Here, it's tent camps, winter and cold," party leader Jimmie Akesson said at a press conference. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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