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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Faces red over asylum game
Afghan refugees
Asylum is a major issue in Switzerland
The Swiss authorities have withdrawn a computer game in which players take on the roles of asylum seekers, after complaints from several anti-racism and refugee organisations.

The game, called Swiss Checkin, was devised by the Federal Office for Refugees to raise public awareness about refugees.

But organisations involved in support for refugees and combating racism said the game was unhelpful and even racist.

Asylum is a major political issue in Switzerland. Last year a controversial right-wing proposal for tougher asylum laws was narrowly rejected in a referendum.

'No useful information'

The game involved six potential characters which the player could choose from, all of them based on real cases that the authorities have dealt with.

It works with stereotypes - these are figures which don't have free will
Jurg Schertenleib
Swiss Council for Refugees

They included Celestina, an Angolan whose family was killed in the civil war and was being forced into prostitution by her husband, and Bagram, a Kosovo Albanian being persecuted because he worked for a Serb company.

But the Swiss Council for Refugees (SCR) said the game did not help in the fight against prejudice and provided no useful information.

"It works with stereotypes. These are figures which don't have free will," spokesman Jurg Schertenleib told BBC News Online.

"We have principles that people must talk to people," he added, mentioning a project run by the SCR in which schoolchildren get the chance to meet genuine asylum seekers.

The anti-racist group SOS Racisme went further.

"It's an incitement to xenophobia, to hatred of foreigners, aimed at young people," it said in a statement.


The game was attracting tens of thousands of visitors a day, breaking records for the Federal Office for Refugees' website.

The agency said it received good feedback about the game, especially from young people.

But Mr Schertenleib said its popularity had more to do with the issues involved than the game itself.

"I played it myself. I thought it was rather boring," he said.

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