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Australia turns to YouTube to deter boat people

Published: 5:00PM Tuesday August 02, 2011 Source: Reuters

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 boatpeople, the immigration department said today.

Fifty-four boat people were intercepted last week and the first to be sent to Malaysia. They will be filmed arriving at Australia's Christmas Island detention centre, 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% of the world's asylum seekers.

The YouTube video was aimed at dispora communities in Australia, such as Iranian, Iraqi, Afghan and Sri Lankan, to discourage family and friends from supporting boatpeople, said immigration department spokesman Sandi Logan.

"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... risking your life at sea, only to be put on a plane to be flown back to Malaysia."

Logan said YouTube had been used by Australia for three years to deter boatpeople, with dramatised 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 pixilated.

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

Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been desperate to seal a boatpeople 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 July, Australia agreed to take 4800 asylum-seekers whose claims have been processed in return for Malaysia accepting 800 unprocessed asylum-seekers.

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

The first group of boatpeople are expected to be flown to Malaysia as soon as later this week or next.

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 centre in Malaysia for up to 45 days where their refugee status will be processed by the UNHCR.

They will then be relocated into local communities in Malaysia and given access to jobs, education and healthcare pending resettlement to their destination countries.

In exchange, 4800 asylum seekers now in Malaysia and registered with the UN body will be re-settled in Australia if their refugee claims are approved.

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