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Thursday 23 October  
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Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

TV quiz for asylum seekers courts controversy

Published on : 31 August 2011 - 5:09pm | By Peter Hooghiemstra (VPRO screenshot)
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Weg van Nederland is a Dutch TV quiz for young asylum seekers who have exhausted their legal options. The winner gets 4,000 euros for a fresh start back in his own country. Tasteless? "Of course, the programme is sick but, let's face it, the reality is sick too."

Weg van Nederland is being screened on Thursday evening by the public broadcasting organisation VPRO. It's a one-off show in which five failed asylum seekers answer questions about Dutch language, culture and history, Dutch entertainers and the royal family.


Asylum seekers and organ donors

 
Each year around 15,000 people apply for asylum in the Netherlands. In the end, about half of them stay. “So a lot of people have to go back: thousands of them” says Wouter van Zandwijk.

Weg van Nederland is reminiscent of 2007’s De Grote Donorshow (The big donor show), another controversial TV quiz. It aimed to draw attention to the shortage of organ donors in the Nerherlands. It won an Emmy award in the United States in the category Non-Scripted Entertainment.

Weg van Nederland is part of TV Lab, an annual theme week designed to try out new programmes and test the boundaries of the medium.

The title Weg van Nederland is a play on words: it can mean either “Away from the Netherlands” or “Mad about the Netherlands”.


The candidate who has absorbed the most information during his or her stay in the Netherlands gets 4,000 euros to be used to start a new life in his or her country of origin. But the losers wont be going home empty-handed. They get consolation prizes like a bag of flower bulbs or a bulletproof vest.

Provocative
The five asylum seekers are all young and well-educated. One is an aeronautical engineer from Cameroon, another is a student of Slavic languages who will be sent to Chechnya.

The announcement of the quiz on internet caused an immediate uproar. The VPRO is known for both high quality and provocative programming and editor-in-chief Frank Wiering was not initially enthusiastic when production house Skyhigh pitched the quiz:

"My first reaction was: terrible idea, we're not doing that. Then I looked into the issue more deeply and decided: we have to do this! Weg van Nederland focuses attention on the fact that, these days, many asylum seekers who are being expelled have children who have lived in the Netherlands for eight years or more. They have had a good education, speak perfect Dutch and have only seen their country of birth on television. We believe it's time to stop and think about this."

Sensitive
He emphasizes that the programme is not a hoax like De Grote Donorshow:
"The candidates are not actors, they are genuine unsuccessful asylum seekers who have to leave this country within a month or two."

It's a frivolous show about a serious issue. The VPRO is giving failed asylum seekers a public face and demonstrating how important they could be to the ageing population of the Netherlands. It's a sensitive subject, as was illustrated recently by the case of Sahar, an Afghan girl who had been living in the Netherlands for ten years. Her planned expulsion was cancelled after a storm of emotional protests. 

Investment
Wouter van Zandwijk of the refugee support group Vluchtelingenwerk says he can understand that people might find Weg van Nederland tasteless:

"The programme is sick but, let's face it, the reality is sick too. The reality in this country is that people run out of legal options. Meanwhile, their children are receiving a good education and are integrating well. It makes you think: first you invest in people then, as you are about to harvest that investment - just before they all become hardworking Dutch taxpayers - that's when you send them away."

Frank Wiering comments: "The candidates are highly intelligent, self-assured people quite capable of deciding for themselves whether to take part or not. In terms of taste, I find a programme like Idols far more objectionable. First people are led to believe they are going to be big stars, then after three performances they're headed off for a life of disappointment and drink."

Knowledge
Van Zandwijk: "We're hoping Weg van Nederland makes more people think about how we treat asylum seekers, that they understand more about what asylum seekers go through. Sometimes it takes far too long before they know whether they can stay. Vluchtelingenwerk would like a fast but careful asylum procedure. Young people who have spent so many years in the Netherlands are often more Dutch than Afghan or Somali and more at home here than in their country of origin."

Television viewers can compare their knowledge of the Netherlands with that of the candidates. During the programme they can play along on a second screen using their tablet, smartphone or laptop. The prize is an air ticket to the Caribbean island of Curaçao. A return ticket, of course.

(imm/rk)

 

  • Candidate sent away<br>&copy; VPRO screenshot - http://www.vpro.nl/
  • Quiz candidates<br>&copy; VPRO screenshot - http://www.vpro.nl/

Discussion

Anonymous 23 September 2014 - 10:40pm / usk

foundation please! If you knew a little bit more about the region's political history, you would understand the decisive role that U.S. policy has on all the countries located in Central and South America. So, could you tell me where do all the powerful weapons used by Mexican drug dealers come? And who consumes most
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Anonymous 23 November 2011 - 3:21pm

Why do the goverment boink people around when they need to be deported? and why do they allow bleeding hearts to rule the government decisons, if they are to be DEPORTED FFS deport them already.

Anonymous 3 September 2011 - 10:45pm / Mexico

Hey Hiram, I invite you to concentrate more on the geopolitics of North America! Do not talk without foundation please! If you knew a little bit more about the region's political history, you would understand the decisive role that U.S. policy has on all the countries located in Central and South America. So, could you tell me where do all the powerful weapons used by Mexican drug dealers come? And who consumes most of the drugs that pass trough Mexico and Central America leaving a trail of blood on its way .. Of course, our governments are also to blame for corrupt and subservient to the United States, but please do not compare the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico with that between the first and Canada. This makes no sense!

Hiram1 4 September 2011 - 7:06am

Anonymous, Mexicans (drug lords and their gangs), are murdering Mexicans in order to maintain control of a very lucrative drug market in the U.S. and Canada. The Mexican government accuses the U.S. of being the cause because of the demands for more drugs. When the Mexicans keep on sending the poision to the U.S. and Canada, they perpetuate the drug demand. Sure there is going to be more drugs if you keep sending it to the U.S. They, the Mexicans, then used their vast wealth from the drugs to buy illegal guns and weapons (stolen) and they murder their own people with them. They also use their wealth to buy off the vast majority of politicians, military, and police in order to protect their market. No, Anonoymous, the Mexican government and it's leaders have turned their heads to the drug problems over the years that the selling of illegal drugs has been considered normal. Only the present Mexican president has done anything to control the drug trade. This is why he Mexico has become a battle field. Stop blame the crimes in Mexico on others. It has been cause by the greed of the drug dealers, dirty politicians, police, and military in Mexico. Those reasons previously mentioned are the same reasons why hispanics are constantly fleeing Mexico into the U.S. A select few people in Mexico supress the Mexicans in jobs and pay them nothing. They flee because the Mexican government has been morally bankrupt with it's law abiding citizens. I have been living with Hispanics for over fifty years. I know the language, the people, and the culture. They are good people who have no control and have learned to mind their business. Why? They too know the customs and culture of Mexico. They know it is dangerous.

Anonymous 4 September 2011 - 1:11pm / México

Hiram, thank you very much for the detailed explanation you have given on the drug war in Mexico. I see you're well informed about the political problems in Mexico. And yes, the historical problem from my country has been the huge corruption in the political system! The only thing that I did not agree to your previous comment was the comparison between Canada and Mexico, because both countries have very different affairs with the U.S. Anyway, I think it’s not the appropriate place to discuss the issue because this article talks about a different topic in the Netherlands. It is always good to discuss on global issues with people from other countries. And finally, I just want to say that in the current context of globalization policy of each country is defined by internal and external issues. Greetings.

Dutch immigrant since 1979 2 September 2011 - 3:45pm / Netherlands

Thanks to people like Wilders, there is now a strong anti-foreigner movement causing embarrassment to the Netherlands for some considerable time. This controversial game show was designed to expose the ignorance and the intolerance of the Dutch governments anti-immigration policy.

In the future, it would be more realistic and humane to determine whether asylum seekers should be granted status here in the Netherlands by having the process assessed in their country of origin. This would save much time, expense, humiliation, frustration & disappointment for those concerned. A safe-house for the asylum seekers where they can live while being processed would be a far better solution.

Dutch immigrant since 1979 2 September 2011 - 3:42pm / Netherlands

Thanks to people like Wilders, there is now a strong anti-foreigner movement causing embarrassment to the Netherlands for some considerable time. This controversial game show was designed to expose the ignorance and the intolerance of the Dutch governments anti-immigration policy.

In the future, it would be more realistic and humane to determine whether asylum seekers should be granted status here in the Netherlands by having the process assessed in their country of origin. This would save much time, expense, humiliation, frustration & disappointment for those concerned. A safe-house for the asylum seekers where they can live while being processed would be a far better solution.

antony 2 September 2011 - 8:54am / somaliland

where is UNHCR Netherlands trying to depotation asylum seekers they country,where is human wrights,if tehy country have a peace or goverment ok some somalian fourced to deprtation back how ever who is give them peace when they come somalia al shabab have a power stil they kill youngs and ladys, am saying all of the europe give asylum seekers of somalian those country no peace, no goverment ,no health, no food , thanxs.

Anonymous 2 September 2011 - 3:10am / England

can you please tell me what sort of business you could start with 4,000 nothing really so please stop playing on peoples life am glad that i left Netherlands shame on you dutch people,

Anonymous 1 September 2011 - 7:14pm / USA

Now if only we here in the United States could do this to the huge influx of illegal immigrants and migrant workers that aren't even trying to seek asylum but think they have rights to stay here just because they had kids here... and some of them not even that. At least those in the Netherlands are trying to seek asylum. Here, they brag that they have no visa, and that all their money goes back to Mexico.

Anonymous 3 September 2011 - 7:38am / Mexico

If only Mexico was far away from the U.S. we would not have this drug war that has killed thousands of people throughout the country due to the large flows of drugs that reach your country, which is the biggest drug market in the world. And of course if there are many Mexicans in the U.S is because its labour market needs them!! And isn’t it the U.S a country that has built its history based on the migrants hands?? The worst thing that people from developed countries can do is to blame immigrants for their problems, it is a very hypocritical attitude because when they need immigrants to grow the production from their countries then they create policies to encourage them to immigrate. . Isn't it paradoxical?

Hiram1 3 September 2011 - 7:42pm

Correction: Canada is next to the U.S., why are they (the canadians) not mass murdering their people? Don't blame the U.S. for the crimes mexicans commit against mexicans. It doesn't work!

Hiram1 3 September 2011 - 7:41pm

Canada is next to the U.S., why are they (the canadians) mass murdering their people? Don't blame the U.S. for the crimes mexicans commit against mexicans. It doesn't work!

Anonymous 3 September 2011 - 10:44pm / Mexico

Hey Hiram, I invite you to concentrate more on the geopolitics of North America! Do not talk without foundation please! If you knew a little bit more about the region's political history, you would understand the decisive role that U.S. policy has on all the countries located in Central and South America. So, could you tell me where do all the powerful weapons used by Mexican drug dealers come? And who consumes most of the drugs that pass trough Mexico and Central America leaving a trail of blood on its way .. Of course, our governments are also to blame for corrupt and subservient to the United States, but please do not compare the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico with that between the first and Canada. This makes no sense!

Anonymous 1 September 2011 - 10:19am / netherlands

what a cheap way , playing with people life and dreams ... this is netherland.

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