Tech executives tell Germany to scrap 'hate-filled' migrant campaign

A poster advertising financial help to refugees who want to return to their home countries issued by Germany's Interior Ministry is pictured at a metro station in Berlin, Germany, November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - Scores of tech entrepreneurs in Berlin have signed a letter telling the government to scrap a poster campaign that encourages migrants to go home - saying the message spreads hate and undermines efforts to hire foreign developers.

The "Returning From Germany" campaign, launched by the interior ministry last week, offers financial incentives to people who want to return voluntarily and uses the slogan "Your country! Your future! Now!".

The ministry said, in accompanying publicity material, that the campaign only targeted illegal migrants - though the word "illegal" does not appear on the posters pasted up on billboards in around 80 cities.

Yann Leretaille, founder of the start-up 1aim, said he drafted the open letter and posted it online after foreign members of his staff contacted him, concerned that the message was aimed at them.

"I have launched this movement in the hope that the federal government will understand the negative, perhaps even catastrophic impact of this campaign, culturally and economically," he wrote in the letter since signed by 60 other entrepreneurs.

"I urge the federal government: Put an end to this campaign immediately and remove these hate-filled, discriminatory posters!"

Interior minister Horst Seehofer did not immediately respond to the open letter https://berlinunite.com - but has said in the past that the government must respond to public concern over migration to see off far-right challengers.

Germany remains deeply divided over migration three years after Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany's borders to more than a million migrants, many of them fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East.

On its website, the ministry said: "The action is intended to inform people about current possibilities for voluntary departure and reintegration. The campaign is not targeted at people who live legally in Germany. The legality of their presence here is not in question."

The posters in English, Farsi, French, Arabic, Russian and Pashtu are decorated with the flags of many refugees' home countries. On Berlin's metro, many of the posters have already been scrawled over with obscene graffiti.

"With joy I pay my taxes - which then are spent on an anti-migrant campaign," Maria Skora, a Polish researcher in Berlin, told Reuters. "The fact I am not directly targeted by this campaign because I'm an EU citizen is just sheer luck... I am appalled!"


(Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrew Heavens)