If you are a failed asylum seeker in the Netherlands you may be nervously awaiting the knock at the door that means time is up and you are on your way home. Cheer up! You now have your own TV show.
The new strict conditions for refugees and their expulsion have angered many Dutch people, but not as much as state television producer Frank Wiering, who some say has exploited the asylum seekers even more with a shock programme.
“We want a political discussion to start about the fate of asylum seekers. How can they finish their education? How can they start a career instead of being thrown out of the country?” says the VPRO’s editor in chief.
Wiering says his show, “Away from the Netherlands”, or “Crazy about the Netherlands” depending on how you translate it, is an attack on the anti-immigrant policies imposed on the coalition government by Geert Wilders and his Freedom party.
However some say the show adds nothing to the debate.
“This is coming from the left corner, fighting the government, and can only be grist to Wilder’s mill,” says political analyst Peter van der Heyden.
The show quizzes unsuccessful asylum applicants facing imminent deportation on precisely those aspects of Dutch politics, sport and culture Wilders claims the Netherlands’ immigrants do not know, and do not care about.
There were five contestants, all of whom had lived for at least half of their lives in the country. At one point in the game they had to make a map of the Netherlands with slices of Gouda cheese.
“Weg van Nederland” has already had its first winner; a young Armenian Kurd who will not be able to stay, but will at least have 4000 euros to soften the blow of expulsion.
The losers did not go away empty-handed, however. They got bags of tulip bulbs, a survival kit and a lifejacket, which they clutched to their chests as the music came up and their 50 minutes in the company of the host and his blonde police-uniformed assistants ended.