Migrant mother with a child waits for a medical check in Munich, Germany. Picture: AFP PHOTO/CHRISTOF STACHE
Migrant mother with a child waits for a medical check in Munich, Germany. Picture: AFP PHOTO/CHRISTOF STACHE

Berlin — 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, offers financial incentives to people who want to return voluntarily.

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 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 had contacted him,
concerned that the campaign 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 to put an end to this campaign and remove these hate-filled, discriminatory posters!"

Interior minister Horst Seehofer did not immediately respond to the open letter 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 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.