2011/08/02

Australia YouTube clips to frighten off asylum-seekers

SYDNEY, August 2, 2011 (AFP) - Australia said Tuesday it will film the first group of boat people being sent to Malaysia under its new refugee swap deal and post the video on YouTube to discourage others from making the dangerous trip.

The move comes after the two countries last week signed a controversial pact under which 800 boat people will be sent to Malaysia from Australia, which in return will resettle 4,000 refugees processed by Kuala Lumpur.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said posting the videos online would send a powerful message to people-smugglers and their customers that if they attempt the voyage to Australia they will end up in Malaysia.

"We know that people-smugglers tell lies, we know that people-smugglers will be out there saying, 'Look, this won't apply to you' ... because they are desperate to make money off desperate people," he told ABC radio.

"And we think it's only fair to show very clearly the government's new policies in operation.

"Now, of course we'll have people's identities respected and we'll have appropriate videos posted, but it will be very clear that measures have been taken and this new policy is in operation."

The asylum-seekers will be filmed as they are moved from Australia's remote Christmas Island detention centre to board a plane to Malaysia and check into accommodation in the Southeast Asian nation.

Most of those arriving in Australia on rickety wooden fishing boats are from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, but Bowen insisted potential boat people would have access to social media to see the videos.

"We know that many asylum-seekers throughout the region do follow closely what's happening in Australia; they follow closely announcements of policy changes and they are watching this arrangement quite closely," he said.

"So yes, I do think that many people would have access to that sort of social media and word-of-mouth will spread quickly from those who do have that access to those who don't."

The first boatload earmarked for Malaysia, with 54 people on board, arrived on Sunday and was heading to Christmas Island to be processed.

Campaign groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have opposed the Malaysia deal, accusing Australia of dodging its duties to boat people and ignoring their human rights by sending them to a country that is not a signatory to the United Nations convention on refugees.