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Jun 11, 2010

Australia says no to people-smuggling -- via YouTube

The Government is running a new round of ads to try to deter asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat. But the target audience is local, not overseas.


The Immigration Department has launched a new round of videos aimed at discouraging asylum seekers from trying to reach Australia by boat, setting up a Youtube channel devoted to explaining the horrors of the boat journey to Australia.

The campaign, “No To People Smuggling” has had no mainstream domestic exposure so far. It aims:

“…to raise awareness and educate communities within Australia about the dangers and uncertainties of using people smugglers. Watch and hear first-hand accounts taken from those who have risked their lives and those of their families to undertake the treacherous journey to Australia. The stories detail the grave dangers faced on the open ocean in small and often unseaworthy boats, with no guarantee of reaching Australia or being granted asylum.”

The YouTube channel consists of three videos in Tamil, Sinhalese, Pashto, Farsi, Dari and Arabic. One explains the suspension of processing of claims from Sri Lankans and Afghan applicants and the Government’s “crackdown on people smuggling” and those who support people smuggling. Another conveys “Ali’s story”, in which an actor playing an asylum seeker explains how his sister and daughter were drowned in an attempt to reach Australia. The third, and most graphic, simulates the point of view of someone drowning at sea:


This morning, comments from Youtube users critical of that video were removed and comments set to Moderated.

In 2000, the Howard Government under then-Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock launched an ad campaign in the Middle East warning of the perils of the boat journey to Australia, detention and, famously, the spiders, snakes and crocodiles that awaited any asylum seekers arriving in outback Australia. One of the consequences, Immigration officials later learnt, was that emphasising the presence of sharks made people smuggling more appealing for Indonesian fishermen, who like to catch shark.

However, the Department of Immigration — which no longer runs in-country advertising campaigns (that is now the responsibility of Customs) — says the ads are aimed not at potential asylum seekers overseas but at local communities that can act to discourage them from attempting to reach Australia by boat.

Immigration’s Sandi Logan said the campaign had been developed since late last year and was based on research conducted by an agency that had interviewed Sri Lankan, Afghan, Iranian and Iraqi diaspora community members, to identify what were the most powerful motivations driving people to attempt to reach Australia by boat. “We found that the threat of law enforcement, of imprisonment, is nothing to these people, given what they’ve been through. However, the risk of dying, of losing family members, or of losing your money or being deceived by people smugglers, is much more real.”

“This is not an ad campaign,” Logan said. “It’s an information plan targeted at a very specific audience. It’s composed of posters, brochures, and the videos. All have been produced in-house, except for the translations. The total cost so far, including the translation services, is around $75,000. Left Behind cost $2642 in total.”

“We’ve also been putting public notices in the ethnic media flagging the recent changes to laws relating to people smuggling, and the suspension of Sri Lankan and Afghan asylum seeker claims,” says Logan. “We started developing the campaign last year when we saw that people smugglers were taking much greater risks and exposing more people to danger in rickety boats.”

Further videos would be produced targeting the risk of losing your money to asylum seekers or being abandoned by them, Logan said. However, the campaign would also be coupled with information alerting diaspora communities to legitimate mechanisms for enabling family members to come to Australia, rather than risking the journey by boat.

Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne criticised the videos, and particularly the drowning ad, reminiscent of graphic domestic advertising campaigns such as road safety. “The point is that these people don’t have a choice about coming here by boat. You have a choice about driving drunk, for example. These people don’t have any choice if they’ve fled the Taliban and Australia is the only country that will take them.”

Update: This article originally quoted Sandi Logan as saying the videos were part of an “information campaign”.  This was a misquote: he stated that it was part of an “information plan.”  The text above has been amended.



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21 thoughts on “Australia says no to people-smuggling — via YouTube

  1. Jack Smit

    Woomera – Baxter – Curtin – Christmas Island…

    No one knows where you are…

    No one can hear you…

    No one should go through this…

    No one can trust Australia’s Lib-Lab government… (or, don’t trust the r@t-f**kers for one minute)

  2. Rena Zurawel

    It gets better and better.
    Just wondering how much money has been spent on this ultra-sophisticated ‘project’.
    Is this very wavy message supposed to frighten the smugglers or asylum seekers? Or Immigration Department?
    Who actually is the addressee here?
    I think the project was designed to send a clear message to the Immigration Department: No one can hear you.
    Particularly if the video is going to be presented in the bombed caves of Afghanistan.
    Judging by the past records and ‘human errors’ in the Department, there is a possibility that some messages in… Sinhalese will be sent to those caves.

  3. willozap

    How is it wrong to try and dissuade people from inherently unsafe practices?

    I’m fully in favour of expanded humanitarian migration, and 100% against the demonisation of asylum seekers. But saying that the government shouldn’t warn people of the dangers of people traffickers – as Pamela Curr seems to be doing – is patently ridiculous and does a disservice to all those who want a more humanitarian approach to asylum seekers.

    I actually think this is a pretty good campaign, given growing penetration of the internet in pathway countries and the fact that 353 people from the SIEV X did, you know, drown.

    Is it more humanitarian to pretend that such a journey is safe?

  4. Lambikins

    who’s going to see this? and even if they do – most people are so desperate that they’ll take what they already know will be risky

  5. biv

    Yawn, this wont stop boats arriving. Waste of money really. Nothing wrong other than that though. However, assylum seekers are desperate and as mentioned above wont have access to youtube. If they did have access, they would still make the journey. Whoever wins the next election will be facing the same numbers of boat people and the same politics will result.

  6. channah45@gmail.com

    @Rena since the Immigration Department spokesman says the target audience is the refugees already living in Australia, the aim seems to be to traumatise further a group of already traumatised people, in the hope that they can be co-opted to spread the word overseas.

    @Willozap – Are safer alternatives really available? For example, where is the “information alerting diaspora communities to legitimate mechanisms for enabling family members to come to Australia” that is supposed to be “coupled with” this video horror? I can’t see any such information on the youtube channel.

    I’d also like to know which “agency” conducted the interviews that formed the basis of these videos. Were the interviewees aware of the purpose of the interviews, and did they give their informed consent for this research?

  7. willozap

    @Channah – Oh, I don’t doubt that there aren’t adequate safe modes of transport for asylum seekers (ie a political problem), or information about mythical modes of transport.

    But we have to ask: what advice should someone interested in the human welfare of asylum seekers give to a potential asylum seeker camped out in Indonesia? Is the best advice really to get on to these leaky boats? Remember, they aren’t sailing straight from Afghanistan.

  8. Venise Alstergren

    WILLOWZAP: For once, I find myself on the other side of the fence.

    I tend to agree with you.

    Even if the ads cost a bomb.

    Even if they only get through to a limited audience. It could be worth it.

    CHANNAH45@GMAIL.COM: Granted, these people will have to endure a little bit more trauma.

    Could it not be worth it? If word of mouth between relos and friends can help deter the loss of lives, surely this is a more humane action than the one as practised by Philip Ruddock?

  9. Rena Zurawel

    Shark infested waters?

    But we have to ask:
    Why there are not many refugees from Australia to Afghanistan? (waiting in Indonesia)

  10. Venise Alstergren

    RENA ZURAWEL: Umm… What’s your point. ❓

  11. Liz45

    @WILLOWZAP – If Australia kept its military and war mongering out of countries like Iraq & Afghanistan, and stopped its support for Burma and Sri Lanka via heaps of money and weapons, there mightn’t be as many fleeing for their lives- we even have joint military operations with them for goodness sake? How moral is that?

    We(via Howard) invaded 2 countries on a lie – we created the terrorists in both those countries. In Iraq, we helped kill 1.3 million people, and who knows how many in Afghanistan – then, when the people escape for their lives, we slam them in detention centres more punitive than being jailed for crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping and rape! There are over 400 kids in detention now! One is a 2 month old baby – shameful!

    These people are living life on a daily basis with fear and pure luck – many of their family members have either been murdered by one means or another; have ‘disappeared’ (read detained and probably tortured – including young boys over 5′ tall?) and this govt is trying to deter them from an “unsafe” journey?

    Why are we there? In Iraq because of the oil, and in Afghanistan because of oil and gas in the Caspian Sea(estimated to be worth $16 trillion) and the West wants to build a pipeline via Afghanistan, so they can avoid Iran and any other nasty little country that might oppose them – they can also loosen their dependance on Saudi Arabia as well. Of course, there’s other resources in Afghanistan that they’d like to steal as well!

    Less than 4% of asylum seekers arrive by boat – at least 96% come by plane, and when their visas run out, or they apply for asylum, they’re treated more humanely than those who arrive by boat! It’s appalling!

    IF I was living in these countries, particularly if I had children, I’d take the risk too – to save my childrens’ lives. Those occupying these countries don’t give a damn about the citizens – there’s enough evidence to support this statement on the Internet. Where should the 4 million homeless people in Iraq go? To Iran? They’re in danger of being imprisoned or kicked out of there. 2 million of them are homeless in Iraq! We don’t even recognise their plight. It’s a disgrace!

  12. willozap

    @Liz45 I don’t quite see how your argument is in response to my comment. I have said nothing about the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan – both of which I believe were (and the continued occupations are) highly problematic.

    I’ll just ask my question again: what advice should someone interested in the human welfare of asylum seekers give to a potential asylum seeker camped out in Indonesia? What advice would you give them? Is the best advice really to get on to these leaky boats?

  13. AR

    the risk of losing your money to asylum seekers or being abandoned by them, Logan said. “.
    Hic! Shorley,thass shood be “..losing your money to devil horned, fire breathing, baby eating people smugglers“, TM Krudd “worst people on Earth”?

  14. Liz45

    My response is the same that I’ve either provided on this site or another; that if I thought my children’s live was at threat – I’d do anything, say anything in order to save them, or at least help provide them with a better persuit of happiness – even if I could’nt do it!Hopefully those who gave me their assurances would uphold their commitment/s

  15. Jack Smit

    @willozap – “What advice should someone interested in the human welfare of asylum seekers give to a potential asylum seeker camped out in Indonesia? What advice would you give them? Is the best advice really to get on to these leaky boats?”

    Up to 3,000 asylum seekers have camped out in Indonesia for up to ten years. They are all hoping to come to Australia: we are the only UN Refugee Convention country in the nearest five thousand miles that gives refugees a chance once they’re here. In the last couple of years we’ve taken about 40-80 people per year from Indonesia.

    So, refugees in Indonesia have a choice: wait for a decade and you have a chance of finding refugee assessment and safety, or take a smuggler.

    I would tell them to take a smuggler. It’s cheaper than feeding yourself and your family for a decade, the UN in Jakarta can’t cope because they don’t get enough resources from their Geneva bosses; and as you could have seen on SBS-TV Insight a few weeks ago, the Jakarta UN mob have also suggested to an asylum seeker to try and get a smuggler to get to Australia.

    The SBS-TV program:

    The trouble is, that if I tell them to take a smuggler, my phone may now be bugged by ASIO and I may find myself arrested and locked up for “providing material support for people smuggling”.

    See the details here:

  16. Venise Alstergren

    BERNARDK: “This morning, comments from YouTube users critical of that video were removed and comments sent to ‘Moderated'”.

    Does this mean the moderator at YouTube; or is this a special government dept?
    Or are they both the same?

  17. Zwan

    *tries to post view on video*

    “Comment Pending Approval!” WOW there goes my freedom of speech.

  18. Pamela

    Well one thing is for sure no one in Afghanistan will see it. Internet cafes charge 150 Afghanis for one head and shoulders photo on a dvd- not printed.
    This is 15% of an Afghan average weekly wage for someone lucky enough to have work. No homebased computers so this DVD unlikely to be seen in Afghanistan.

    Maybe in Indonesia but since all Afghan asylum seekers who are picked up are locked up in Indonesian Immigrasi prisons even if they have been assessed by UNHCR as refugees and given a UN Refugee card- this does not seem like a real choice.

    Fact is now many people are locked up for months- some 13 months in detention living on an allowance of two meals per day of rice and curry slops deliverd in plastic bags -no utensils or plates- by IOM (international organisation of Migration).

    Australia ( well you really- your taxes) pays this organisation 13 million per year. IOM spends 23,000 Indo Rupiah or A$2.92 per day per person on food.
    People are detained in cells- I saw 15 people in a cell 4×4 metres- no furniture, no beds. In this space 24 hours per day eating, sleeping, washing, toiletting, worrying.

    We know the boats are dangerous but how will we stop people getting on them when the choice is this existence in Indonesia. Added to this is the GREAT PULL FACTOR created by the opposition continually carping in the media about how they are going to push the boats back etc. People are saying we have to come now before Australia locks the door- this is the greatest pull factor scaring people into boarding the boats. A real winner for Abbott they more the opposition squeal the more will come.
    There is an alternative which involves providing a formal application mechanism in Pakistan and indonesia for Afghans and alternative for Tamils but who would the red necks whinge about if we really stopped the boats.

  19. Liz45

    @WILLOWZAP – I introduced Iraq and Afghanistan as I think they’re relevant to why people are risking their lives to come here. We helped create their motivation to leave their country. Most people don’t want to leave their country of birth -they’re driven by need! Their need to stay alive! A need to protect their children. I wouldn’t give any advice to them – I think that would be offensive!!

    @PAMELA – I agree with all of what you’ve said!

  20. LOU

    Having been a Customs Officer stationed in the Kimberley region I have encountered many such people trying to beat the proper entry into our country. They were all turned away as they did not meet the correct requirements of the Australian Government. If they were to have tried and succeeded all was OK. We had a full check of their backgrounds, qualifications and living styles. Those trying to enter through the back door could have come from anywhere not from the stated country. Australia needs good immigrants to help our country but those backdoor people are not to be trusted as they are not wanted in the countries in Asia and the Middle East. In my opinion all of these people should be sent straight back to their so-called homeland. The whole matter is costing our country an immense amount of money which could be used here to assist our own people in just so many ways. thank you.

  21. Liz45

    @LOU – The problem is, that AUSTRAIA is signatory to the Migration Act – Indonesia is not. Why doesn’t Australia encourage Indonesia to sign also? Indonesia has a very poor history re human rights. We give them millions every year to care for refugees humanely. What do they spend that money on?

    The fact is, that as far as asylum seekers are concerned, there is no such thing as a ‘back door’. I sugest you look up the UN Declaration on Human Rights – Article 14 in particular. In effect it states; anyone has the right to seek protection from a fear for their life or liberty. It also clearly states, that they should not be treated any different regardless of how they arrive in any country in the world – that includes us!!!!!!!!!!!

    Cost of keeping someone on Xmas Island per day is over $1000 – Villawood, Sydney about $280 per day. Cost of keeping someone in the community is cheaper still. We are part of the world. We boast about our caring attitude; our commitment to the Rule of Law etc. We’re either fair dinkum or not. We should also avoid getting into bed with the US every time they rattle our ‘chain’ by participating in their ugly wars that kill people – almost 1.5 million in Iraq.

    There’s lots of information on the net about asylum seekers; their rights and our responsibilities. I suggest you investigate some of these websites, such as Amnesty Internationl, A Just Australia and others.


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