The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has launched a new YouTube channel called No to People Smuggling, but there are questions around how effective such initiatives really are.
Of its latest effort to stem the number of refugees making their way to Australia by boat, the department says:
“YouTube is proving a successful tool to reach asylum seekers’ families and friends in Australia, to highlight the grim realities and risks in engaging with people smugglers.”“
When SBS logged on it had five subscribers.
Despite having only being launched last month, a department spokesman said the projected success of the new YouTube channel was in fact based on traffic statistics for the department’s other online venture, ImmiTV.
The spokesman said that ImmiTV had had 75,000 hits since its launch two years ago, or an average of 100 a day. It currently has 408 subscribers.
The ‘No to People Smuggling’ channel features a harrowing video of someone drowning while attempting to make the trip to Australia.
DIAC hopes that “communities in Australia can share these stories with friends and relatives overseas at risk of engaging with people smugglers.”
However, Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre worries such footage is simply “re-traumatising people who came here by boat.”
She says many asylum seekers who arrived by boat have already warned their families against attempting the same voyage, but people often have no choice but to make the journey regardless.
Curr says: “The government doesn’t want to recognise that people don’t have a choice.”
“If they really wanted to stop the boats they’d provide an alternative… a lawful, formal mechanism for, mainly Afghans, to come to Australia.”
“They want to be seen to be doing something, but it’s probably just window dressing.”
When told that refugee groups don’t think the channel is likely to be very successful in curbing arrivals by boat, a spokesman for the department said: “We can’t do much about that.”
The government has suspended processing claims from Afghan asylum seekers for six months and those from Sri Lanka for three months.
It says changing circumstances in these countries mean there are safe and lawful visa options for people wanting to come to Australia.
Twelve asylum-seekers drowned earlier this month during an attempt to reach Australia by boat.