Sarah Whyte, Sydney Morning Herald, February 12, 2014
Would-be asylum seekers have been warned off making the journey to Australia by boat in graphic new slogans and a cartoon strip on two websites administered by the Immigration Minister.
Human rights activists have slammed the latest campaign as being distasteful and embarrassing to Australia.
”NO WAY” the slogan says on the freshly updated Department of Immigration site. ”They will not make Australia home”. The move is the latest element to the Coalition’s hardline asylum seeker policy.
Late last year, Customs also released a graphic 18-page cartoon strip, warning asylum seekers on its website of the dangers of travelling overseas, showing one Afghan man being attacked by mosquitoes in a detention camp.
It warns asylum seekers in the Afghan languages of Dari and Pashto that people will not be given entry into Australia if they go via boat without a visa.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the ”targeted campaign”, which also says ”Don’t waste your money–people smugglers are lying”, had gone live this week.
”This will complement the offshore communications campaign about the government’s strong border protection policies which comprises the overwhelming allocation of resources in which messaging is delivered directly through transit and source countries,” a spokesman for the minister said.
The spokesman said the campaigns would not be aired or shown on mainstream media, unlike the advertisements that were shown late last year by the Labor government across national media platforms.
The Customs cartoon strip was originally developed and distributed offshore under the previous government, a spokesman for Mr Morrison said.
”It has been part of offshore anti-people smuggling communications campaigns. It has also been distributed in the period since the federal election.
”It has been on the Customs website since last year.”
But refugee groups and human rights advocates have slammed the low-key campaigns.
”This document is in incredibly poor taste,” Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
”The fact that it came from the Australian government is a disappointing indictment on our once generous nation, which helped to draft the Refugee Convention.
”When did the lucky country, the country of the fair go, become the country that threatens to break people’s spirits, including children, by locking them up on remote Pacific islands?”
Human rights advocate Jarrod McKenna described the advertisements as ”horrific”.
”Instead of saying “no way” we must provide “safe ways” for people to seek asylum without risking their lives or being imprisoned for trying. Compassion must make a way,” he said.
The Australian Director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, said the campaign was unlikely to work and should have given more practical information about how and where people should safely claim asylum.
”The ‘No Way’ campaign seems to be more of a rant geared to a domestic audience for political reasons to reinforce the government’s hardline approach to deterring migration,” Ms Pearson said.