Bonnie Malkin, Telegraph (London), August 2, 2011
The first group to be processed under the new “Malaysian solution”, under which Australia will send 800 arrivals to Malaysia and accept 4000 certified refugees in exchange, are expected to arrive on the remote territory of Christmas Island this week, after being picked up in Australian waters on Sunday.
Once they have arrived, they will undergo health checks and within a few days will be sent on to Kuala Lumpur, a process that will be filmed by the government and posted on the video-sharing website.
Chris Bowen, the immigration minister, 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.
“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.” Last year more than 50 asylum seekers died off Christmas Island after their flimsy wooden boat broke up in high seas.
The Australian government has used YouTube videos to counter people smuggling before, but this will be the first time that it has used real asylum seekers in the footage.
The announcement of the plan to film asylum seekers comes as the public waits to see if the Malaysia solution does indeed cut the number of boats arriving at Christmas Island. Julia Gillard, the embattled prime minister, has staked her reputation on the policy, and is desperate for it to pay off.
Earlier this week she granted federal police special powers to force asylum seekers onto planes to Malaysia.