Reality TV’s new low: Big Brother is deporting you

By Theresa Mallinson 8 September 2011

As reality TV scrapes the barrel, the Netherlands broadcast a quiz show last week called “Weg van Nederlands”. Its unique selling point? The five contestants were all student refugees whose asylum applications have already been refused. By THERESA MALLINSON.

The pun in the show’s title, which can be translated as either “Away from the Netherlands” or “Crazy about the Netherlands”, cruelly plays on the contestants’ predicament. They all face deportation, but have chosen to spend some of their remaining time in the Netherlands participating in a quiz show that tests them on such national trivia as how many bicycles were stolen in the country last year (524,000, if you care) and their ability to carve a map of the Netherlands from a block of cheese.

“Of course, it’s terrible, but it is also very smart,” Janneke Bruil, of the Foundation for Refugee Students, told Global Post. “When you watch this show it hits you right in your heart. You can’t help but think that something is wrong. It’s a game, but at the same time these people are going to be sent off on a plane and it’s their life. You have to ask ‘what is going on here?’”

Yes, we do have to ask that question – not only of the Dutch government, which has recently tightened asylum policies, but of the show’s producers. The winner of “Weg van Nederlands” received $5,680 – in a plastic suitcase. And the losers? They got bullet-proof vests, “decorated in the style of traditional Delft blue tiles”. As the contestants are returned to Armenia, Cameroon, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, and Syria over the next while, we’re sure that touching reminder of their stay in the Netherlands will make all the difference to their situation. DM

Read more:

  • Reality TV: Who wants to be a refugee, in Global Post.

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