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Armenian Asylum Seeker Winner in Hoax Dutch TV Quiz Show

Kurdin Gulistyan (or Gulistan) was named as the winner of a Dutch TV quiz show — later identified as being a hoax — in which five young refugees compete to prove their attachment to the Netherlands by answering questions about tulips and bikes, identifying corny local pop tunes and carving an outline of the country’s map from a slice of Gouda cheese.

All contestants reside in the Netherlands and had their asylum requests rejected, and face an uncertain future when they are deported to countries they barely remember, according to GlobalPost.

The winner gets a plastic suitcase containing 4,000 euros ($5,680) to take with them when they are expelled. However, as the show, which was broadcast across the nation on Sept. 1, was later deemed to be a hoax, it’s unclear whether actual prize money was awarded or not.

Contestants of “Weg van Nederlands” (can be translated as either “Away from the Netherlands” or “Crazy about the Netherlands”) are students who fled their homelands as children and grew up in the Netherlands. Now, though, their adopted nation has tightened its asylum policies, and their time is up.

With its ever-smiling presenter, flanked by a pair of gyrating blondes in sexed-up police uniforms with mini-skirts and plunging necklines, the show makes disturbing viewing.

Contestants are invited to “come on down” in traditional gameshow fashion, and are introduced by a peppy, off-screen announcer. Viewers are told, for example, that 18-year-old Gulistan is from Armenia and her brother was murdered. She’s lived in the Netherlands for 11 years, wants to be a lawyer and loves syrup waffles.

Although the show’s deliberate bad taste has provoked outrage, supporters, who include refugee rights groups, say the shock tactics are an effective way of raising public awareness and provoking debate on the issue.

“Of course it’s terrible, but it is also very smart,” said Janneke Bruil, from the Foundation for Refugee Students, which helped find contestants for the show.

“When you watch this show it hits you right into your heart. You can’t help but think that something is wrong. It’s a game, but at the same time these people are going to be sent off on a plane, and it’s their life. You have to ask ‘what is going on here?’”

“They don’t see us like human, animals have more rights than asylum seekers,” said Blessing, 24, one of the contestants on last week’s show. Full names of the participants were not released for privacy reasons.

“They just see us a bunch of thieves and liars, but they need to start seeing us as individuals. Look at the people on the program; we have so much to contribute,” she insisted. “We are not just eating, sleeping and waiting for the government to do things for us, we are hard-working people, we’ve proven to them that we are integrated into the system and we are ready to contribute and to give back.”