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Australia Goes Online to Tackle People Smugglers


Activists in support of refugees claiming asylum in Australia rally outside Villawood detention centre in Sydney (File 2011)

Activists in support of refugees claiming asylum in Australia rally outside Villawood detention centre in Sydney (File 2011)

The Australian government is turning to a multi-lingual YouTube channel in its latest effort to tackle people smuggling. A series of short films warn potential asylum seekers of the risks of travelling by boat to Australia and of tough, new measures that will see hundreds of detainees sent to Malaysia.

The short videos have been translated into eight languages, including Arabic, Tamil and Bahasa. This film shows Australian Immigration officers tracking and eventually arresting a suspected member of a people smuggling gang.

The clips are an attempt by the government to use non-traditional media to reach those considering paying criminal gangs to help them or their relatives travel by boat to Australia.

Other films give details of an agreement reached, earlier this month that will see Australia send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia, where their cases will be processed. In turn, the Malaysians will send to Australia 4,000 refugees who have had their claims for protection approved.

Canberra insists the deal will help put people smugglers out of business because they will no longer be able to guarantee their fee-paying clients direct passage to Australia. The government also hopes the initiative will prevent those seeking asylum from risking their lives by crossing Australia’s remote northern waters.

Thailand has expressed interest in pursuing a similar deal, although Australia’s Immigration Minister Chris Bowen says formal talks have not yet started…

“We'll be discussing a range of matters with them, including matters that can break the people smugglers' business model. And, they've expressed an interest in doing the same and that's something very welcome, but we're doing that across the region. I don't want to see anymore Christmas Island tragedies. That was a terrible time for the nation,” said Bowen.

An inquest has begun in the western city, Perth, into the deaths of up to 50 asylum seekers who drowned in December when their boat hit rocks at Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.

The hearing was told that those on board were assured by people smugglers that the vessel was in good condition.

Australian authorities have confirmed the deaths of 30 people in the tragedy, while a further 20 are missing and believed dead.

An Iranian man has appeared in court in Perth charged with trafficking offenses in connection with the loss of life off Christmas Island. He has been remanded in custody and is due back in court next month.

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