10:24 GMT +322 June 2018
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    Asylum seekers arrive at a refugee reception centre in the northern town of Tornio, Finland

    Shoo! Finland Starts Demotivating Facebook Campaign to Scare Off Asylum-Seekers

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    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (161)

    Finland's Foreign Ministry is launching a campaign intended to limit the number of asylum-seekers through demotivating Facebook posts. The goal of the campaign, which is mainly targeting Iraqi, Afghan and Somali applicants, is to convince asylum-seekers without a proper asylum cause to stay at home.

    In the demotivating posts to be disseminated among Facebook users and potential asylum-seekers in the Middle East and Northern Africa, which produce the highest number of refugees, the Finnish Foreign Ministry intends to warn about the dangers of human trafficking or becoming victims of forced labor and exploitation.

    During its preparations, the Foreign Ministry interviewed asylum-seekers about their previous painful experience. According to Foreign Ministry personnel, the idea was to allow the interviewees to speak candidly about their own experience, both positive and negative. In the debate, which was broadcasted live on Facebook earlier this week, four anonymous asylum-seekers implored their fellow countrymen not to seek asylum, unless they absolutely have to. They stressed emphatically that the asylum process is protracted, whereas living abroad is not what it seems like from afar.

    "The objective of the campaign is to reduce the number of unfounded asylum applications, not the number of asylum seekers in general. Indeed, there are people who have no other choice but to flee. However, there are also people who still have a choice and they need access to accurate information when they make their decision," Rim Mezian, communication planner at the Finnish Foreign Ministry, told Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet.

    "Another point however is that it would do EU countries good to launch joint information campaigns, as there is not much sense in all countries running separate ones. Finland, too, has something to contribute," Mezian said.

    This year, the number of asylum applications in Finland (5,300 as of November 2016) has already fallen sharply compared with last year's high of 32,500. One of the possible reasons is that the rumors of Finland's "niggardly" attitudes have already reached potential audiences in the "refugee-producing" countries. Earlier this year, a group of Iraqis reportedly posted discouraging videos about Finland, expressing regret over their decision to flee. The displeased Iraqis admitted a higher level of security, but cited horrible weather, dirty toilets and bad food among other reasons for their dislike of the Nordic country.

    Last year Finland's Foreign Ministry started spreading demotivating information abroad. In a 2015 campaign, information about 10,000 migrants who drowned or otherwise disappeared when crossing the Mediterranean Sea since 2014, as well as risks of human trafficking, sexual exploitation and separation of families, was circulated online. The story ended with a negative decision by the Finnish Migration Board and a warning that the asylum procedure is a lengthy process with an uncertain outcome.

    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (161)


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    Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Scandinavia, Finland
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