Carlo's Corner: Why not welcome refugees, scare off English backpackers for once?

June 14, 2013

In the latest bid to convince desperate people not to seek safety in our country, the federal government is running an ad campaign on primetime Afghan TV directed at members of the persecuted Hazara ethnic minority. said on June 11 that the ad — coordinated by Customs and Border Protection and being screened nightly on Afghanistan's main TV channel — uses actors to tell Hazaras they have no guarantee of being granted asylum in Australia and are likely to be jailed on Nauru or Manus Island.

It would be a desperate move, given that the actual practice of locking up people indefinitely for the “crime” of seeking asylum has not stopped those fleeing death and torture from risking their lives to come here.

Nor has the mind-bending, magical legal moves to excise Australia from the Australian migration zone, making the act of arriving here to seek asylum, whatever the circumstances, technically impossible.

It is a difficult thing to comprehend, but, as the boats keep coming no matter what horrors or bureaucratic tricks we perpetuate on those in them, it might just actually be that these are people with absolutely no other choice.

And therefore, a few paid actors on their TV screens are no more likely to be successful at keeping Hazaras in Afghanistan, dodging Western bombs and fundamentalists, than Tom Waterhouse is at convincing people that gambling is great.

But actually, there is a long tradition of spending taxpayers’ money on ad blitzes trying to convince desperate people willing to risk their lives to seek asylum that this country is so horrible, even staying where they are to be tortured is preferable.

The London Telegraph reported in 2000: “Man-eating crocodiles, sharks and poisonous snakes have become the latest weapons in Australia's efforts to deter illegal immigrants from trying to enter the country.

“In a series of videos launched by the government this week, the message to would-be refugees and asylum seekers is clear: come to Australia and you'll get eaten, bitten or mauled. If you don't get savaged by a wild animal, the video says that the authorities will lock you up in a detention camp in the middle of the desert, hundreds of miles from the nearest town.”

It hasn't exactly been a successful strategy, but I have always wondered what would happen if some bureaucratic inter-departmental bungle resulted in videos containing the immigration department and Tourism Australia's ad campaigns getting mixed up in the post.

It would be interesting to see the result of rich Westerners being told this country is a living hell while poor brown people are enthusiastically encouraged to come here for their own slice of Heaven on Earth.

Surely it could only improve our country if English backpackers were confronted with ads insisting this horrible country was filled with dangerous animals out to kill them and if they set foot here, they'd only be sent to rot in miserable, soul-destroying, razor-wire enclosed concentration camps.

And people who need our assistance were confronted with friendly faces asking insistently “So where the bloody hell are you?” as our beaches, beer and BBQs were offered up to share.

Then again, it is probably redundant anyhow, as it seems a Tony Abbott-led Coalition government is all but inevitable and Abbott vowed on June 6 to stop all asylum seeker boats in his first term. "We'll make a difference from day one when it comes to illegal boat arrivals to Australia," he told media.

Abbott refrained from telling the press conference exactly how he would resolve the global wars, repression and ethnic cleansing that drives a small percentage of all the world's refugees to seek asylum in Australia.

Presumably some intrepid journalist asked the prime minister-to-be, and Abbott said, “Ah... well... um... you see … I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you and LOOK OVER THERE!” before running around the corner and sprinting off down the street.

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