Wed, Aug 03, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Australia uses YouTube to deter would-be boat people

Reuters, SYDNEY

Australia will film boat people being sent to Malaysia under a new refugee swap deal and post the video on YouTube in an effort to deter future boat people, the immigration department said on Tuesday.

The 54 boat people, intercepted last week and the first to be sent to Malaysia, will be filmed arriving at Australia’s Christmas Island detention center, boarding a plane to Malaysia and arriving in camps in Kuala Lumpur for processing.

Border protection is a high priority with Australian voters, although UN figures show Australia receiving just under 0.5 percent of the world’s asylum seekers.

The YouTube video was aimed at diaspora communities in Australia, such as Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans and Sri Lankans, to discourage family and friends from supporting boat people, immigration department spokesman Sandi Logan said.

“We don’t want them funding, we don’t want them in any way suggesting an option for coming to Australia is getting on a rickety dangerous boat, for a highly risky voyage across the open ocean north of Australia,” Logan said. “But of course we know that YouTube is not restricted to people in Australia. It will be a very potent message that demonstrates the futility of engaging with the people smugglers.”

Logan said YouTube had been used by Australia for three years to deter boat people, with dramatized videos of people in detention or losing lives at sea, but this would be the first time real asylum seekers would be filmed being expelled from Australia. For security reasons their faces will be pixelated.

Australia uses two YouTube channels with up to 10 clips in up to eight languages posted, totally 30 to 40 clips in total, Logan said.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been desperate to seal a boat people processing deal with an Asian nation to show she is tough on border protection in the hope of boosting her flagging support. At the end of last month, Australia agreed to take 4,800 asylum seekers whose claims have been processed in return for Malaysia accepting 800 unprocessed asylum seekers.

Human rights groups from both countries have criticized the deal over possible mistreatment of asylum seekers in Malaysia, which is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees and imposes harsh punishments for illegal entry, including caning.

The refugee swap deal is a one-off arrangement.

Under the deal, the first 800 asylum seekers to arrive by boat in Australian waters will be screened, then sent to Malaysia within three days of their arrival.

They will be placed in a transit center in Malaysia for up to 45 days where their refugee status will be processed by the UN Refugee Agency. They will then be relocated into local communities in Malaysia and given access to jobs, education and healthcare pending resettlement to their destination countries.

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