A Tamil Asylum Diaspora: Sri Lankan Migration, Settlement and Politics in Switzerland

By Christopher McDowell | Go to book overview

videos of live action battles produced by LTTE cameramen at the centre of conflicts. Other videos showed ordinary scenes of life in Jaffna and pro-LTTE demonstrations on the streets. The image conveyed was of a population, though under siege, still firmly behind the Tigers and able to live a relatively normal life; precisely the image that Tamils in Switzerland wished to see. Many of the Tamils I interviewed expressed their feelings of guilt when comparing their own security and relative affluence to the appalling conditions faced by many who remained behind. Video tapes with a positive image assuaged some of that guilt, as did the buying of them from the LTTE.

In addition, travelling the other way, from Switzerland to Sri Lanka, were equally fabricated images. The LTTE, as already stated videoed almost every second of every event they organised in Switzerland. Large gatherings such as the football event in Bern provided, with carefully chosen camera angles and strategically placed Tiger banners, the appearance of a mass rally in support of the LTTE. Edited, and coupled with pictures from street demonstrations, such videos presented to an audience in Sri Lanka the image of international solidarity which was critical for domestic support. Individual Tamils also made their own video films about personal success, marriages, births, the home, a family gathering which represented the promise of smart new homes, education and prestige once the war was over.


Conclusion

The relationship between international migrant communities, be they asylum-migrants or economic migrants, and exile political activity is increasingly taxing Western governments and the UNHCR. Jonas Widgren, a former senior civil servant in the Swedish government and UNHCR official, has direct experience of the ways in which the UNHCR and European governments are linking refugee policy with the growing concern of international terrorism. 'There is', he has argued, 'a danger that European refugee policies may be dominated by nation states' joint concern with the threat of terrorism' ( Widgren 1990:53). Ever expanding asylum migrant and refugee groups are seen to be a de-stabilising element in national and international society (see Newland 1993:87), particularly in the United States, and restrictive immigration and asylum measures are seen as necessary for reducing

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