“It is ‘refugee-porn’ to throw oneself at the debate with such pleasure,” said Lars Vilks to daily Expressen.
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 sparked up 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”.
Lars Vilks, who is known for his controversial Muhammad caricatures, wrote on Sveriges Television’s debate page that all the Migration Board has succeeded in is create a ‘veritable bestseller that can be filed under the heading Refugee-porn’.
In the Helsingborgs Dagblad (HD) newspaper, culture reporter Mattias Elftorp wrote 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,” Elftorp wrote.
Vilks also questions the message.
“Does the project group imply that refugees should think more carefully before seeking asylum in Sweden?”, he wrote.
But according to Vilks, the mere wish to discuss asylum policies raises suspicion in today’s Sweden.
“It is difficult to have a serious debate regarding asylum policies which is such a trauma. You enter into a maelstrom if you debate this subject and can immediately be called a Sweden Democrat,” Vilks told Expressen.
However, Vilks still think that the subject should be debated. It is just a question of waiting for the dust to settle on this issue.
“What I don’t understand is how the creative powers at the Migration Board didn’t realize that their product was a ‘mission impossible’. However way they would have designed the product it would have gone wrong,” Vilks wrote.
The comic books, which were 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 involved in the production of the comic books.