03 August 2011

Australian Immigration department aim to deter illegal entrants with YouTube videos

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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship in Australia has revealed plans to publish online videos of people attempting to enter Australia illegally, being declined entry and sent to Malaysia.

Australian Immigration department aim to deter asylum seekers

Australian Immigration department aim to deter asylum seekers with YouTube videos

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard expressed hope that the videos would "smash the business model of people smugglers" and decrease the number of entrants arriving without an appropriate Australian visa. Immigration Minister Chris Bowen added that he hoped the videos would spread the word about the government’s tough line against those seeking illegal entry, and help to deter those who may be tempted to attempt to enter Australia illegally from travelling to the country. Riot police have been training to deal with the first transfer of asylum seekers to Malaysia.

The announcement follows last week’s controversial deal between Australia and Malaysia, a non-signatory of the international Refugee Convention and the UN Convention Against Torture. The agreement will see Malaysia accept 800 people intercepted attempting to enter Australia illegally by boat and in return, Australia has committed to accommodating 4,000 Malaysian refugees over the next four years. The agreement was criticised by some human rights groups, with Human Rights Watch sending an open letter to both countries' prime ministers in which Bill Frelick, director of the group, described the agreement as "burden-shirking, not burden-sharing" and went on to assert that the agreement "should have been rejected outright because Malaysia is not a party to the Refugee Convention and has no refugee law or procedure. The gap in the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers between Australia and Malaysia remains enormous."


The agreement was also criticized by UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay who described the Australian government's policy as "violating international law", and went on to condemn the government's policy of detaining all asylum seekers who arrive on Australia shores. Pillay said: "When detention is mandatory…it can be considered arbitrary, and therefore in breach of international law. Mandatory detention is also a practice that can - and has - led to suicides, self-harming and deep trauma."


The issue of those seeking entry into Australia either to apply for asylum or without a valid Australian visa is contentious, with politicians of both major parties frequently engaging in tough sounding rhetoric about securing borders and detaining those who enter illegally, for example by boat. Other political parties like the Green Party and groups like Amnesty International point out however that the Migration Act (1958) means it is not illegal to arrive in Australia seeking asylum no matter the means of transport, and that the vast majority of asylum seekers who do arrive on Australian shores are found to be genuine refugees

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