Asia-Pacific

Australia to post YouTube film to curb people-smuggling

A demonstrator holds a placard outside the venue of the signing ceremony between Malaysia and Australia to swap refugees in Kuala Lumpur on 25 July 2011
Australia recently signed a controversial deal with Malaysia to swap asylum seekers

The Australian government is to post on YouTube images of so-called boatpeople being turned away and sent to Malaysia, in an effort to deter asylum seekers.

The video will show arrivals at Australia's offshore detention centre on Christmas Island being expelled and boarding aircraft.

Canberra recently signed a deal with Malaysia to accept 800 boatpeople intercepted in Australia.

Asylum seekers remain a politically sensitive issue in Australia.

Australia currently has more than 6,000 asylum seekers in detention, originating from countries including Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

In return for Malaysia accepting the new arrivals by boat, Australia will take 4,000 immigrants who are already registered there over the next four years.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said the move will "smash the business model of people-smugglers".

But human rights groups have criticised Australia over the deal, because Malaysia has not signed the UN Convention on refugees, and the groups say asylum seekers are routinely mistreated there.

'Futile trip'

The footage posted by the Australian government on YouTube will show boatpeople arriving at the country's offshore detention centre in Christmas Island, boarding a plane to Malaysia and then arriving at camps in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

It is intended to drive home the point that asylum seekers heading for Australian shores will now end up in Malaysia, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney.

Previously, the government has used dramatised videos of people in detention or losing their lives at sea to act as a deterrent.

This, however, is the first time that real asylum seekers have been filmed being expelled from Australia - although, for security reasons, their faces will be pixelated, our correspondent says.

The footage will be posted on YouTube in eight languages, targeting Iranians, Afghans, Sri Lankans and Iraqis in particular.

The aim, according to immigration officials, is to demonstrate the futility of risking your life at sea, only to be put on a plane to be flown back to 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," Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told Australian radio.

"I do think that many people would have access to that sort of social media, and word-of-mouth will spread quickly."

The first boatload of asylum seekers expected to be sent to Malaysia was intercepted on Sunday. They are to be processed on Christmas Island before being sent to Kuala Lumpur by plane.

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