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Cartoon bear's 'asylum stories' spark debate

Cartoon bear's 'asylum stories' spark debate

Published: 18 May 2011 17:15 GMT+02:00
Updated: 18 May 2011 17:15 GMT+02:00

One of Sweden's most beloved children's cartoon characters, Bamse the bear, has found himself at the centre of a raging debate about Sweden's asylum policies.

In November of last year, the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) announced plans to enlist Bamse, "the world's strongest bear", as part of an information campaign aimed at asylum seeking children in Sweden.

However, the special edition of the Bamse comic book has sparked a storm of criticism, with detractors alleging in internet debates and on social media sites that Bamse has "sold his soul" and that the story is "airbrushed reality".

In the Helsingborgs Dagblad (HD) newspaper, culture reporter Mattias Elftorp writes in an opinion article entitled "The world's dumbest bear" about one of the special editions in which an asylum seeking wolf who has his application rejected is met by happy family members upon returning to his homeland.

"In the last frame, the whole family is happy and it's hard to miss the message: it's probably better in the end to be sent home than to get asylum and no harm will come to those who the Migration Board has decided don't have grounds for asylum," writes Elftorp.

In another one of the special Bamse editions, Skalman the turtle tells asylum seeking children what to do when they get a stomach ache due to concerns about the asylum process.

"The cure is to go to school, play outside, and meet friends, as if the problem was a lack of fresh air for these children and not a threatening situation in their life," writes HD.

The Migration Board had intended the special editions of Bamse to allow "adults close to the children to explain the asylum process with help" from the comic book.

The comic books, which are aimed at children ages 5 to 12, were produced in cooperation with publisher Egmont Kärnan and translated into five different languages.

A number of refugee aid organisations and agencies were also involved with the comic books' production.

Ola Andreasson, head of Bamseförlaget, the company that owns the Bamse trademark, and son of Bamse creator Rune Andreasson, doesn't understand the criticism directed at the special editions of Bamse.

"In the story, one of the children stays while the others must return [to their homelands]. When you're talking about the asylum process with children, it's certainly appropriate to explain that this is how things can end up," he told media trade publication Dagens Media.

Speaking with the TT news agency, however, Andreasson also acknowledged that having Bamse illustrate the asylum process could be seen as a tacit support for Sweden's current asylum policies.

"Yes, it's clear it could be construed as such, but that's not something to fear, you can't stick your head in the sand," he said.

"I think it's right for Bamse to provide information about everything."

TT/The Local/dl (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

18:05 May 18, 2011 by Infart
Well, it's a noble effort to try and put these books together for children but, with a topic like this, it was bound to end up in controversy.
19:08 May 18, 2011 by Rishonim
yet again another cartoon controversy.
20:04 May 18, 2011 by swedejane
I'm waiting for the Bamse sexual education comic. Will Bamse hook up with that cute female brown bear, or the well hung polar bear?
21:44 May 18, 2011 by Tanskalainen
@swedejane Probably with an Aardvark in fishnet stockings.
02:12 May 19, 2011 by technoviking
The use of predators to portray asylum seekers is certainly accurate at least...
09:30 May 19, 2011 by Marc the Texan
Is this a topic that really must be explained to children? I'm sure the kids would be just as interested in this as they would be in a comic about term life insurance. Maybe Bamse should give lessons on the importance of diversifying your investment portfolio. Explain the asylum process? Why not explain the divorce process or grandparents dying of cancer process. Political agendas are overreaching everywhere.
09:58 May 19, 2011 by infidel2012
Yet another failed attempt to push tolerance on the Scandinavians.

I would much rather see a cartoon depicting these Insurgents being sent back, as opposed to arriving here, or better yet, showing the truth - a bear blowing itself up in the middle of Stockholm during the Christmas shopping season in the name of their religion of peace, or showing an honor killing... oops, My bad, they have no honor : )
11:55 May 19, 2011 by Streja
Swedejane, too late. That issue was out like a long time ago when Bamse got married.
12:04 May 19, 2011 by Dr. Dillner
If we are going to brainwash a group of people to a political agenda, then we must start with the young!
13:12 May 19, 2011 by farnoxo
hey...don't knock brainwashing...its totally under-rated. I mean, without brainwashing, how would these comment threads survive without the endless (witless) diatribes of the brainwashed. At least it provides amusement!
13:41 May 19, 2011 by soultraveler3
It's interesting that they picked the wolf to represent the asylum seeker. In the original cartoons he's always the one starting trouble, tricking people and being naughty.
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