Passport

Australian Government to Huddled Masses: Yearn to Breathe Free Elsewhere

Give the Australian government credit for honesty. Over the course of the last year, Australia has taken a hard-line approach in dealing with a growing migrant crisis on its borders. During the last decade, more than 40,000 people have fled to Australia on unauthorized boats, and, according to the International Organization for Migration, they are ...

Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

Give the Australian government credit for honesty.

Over the course of the last year, Australia has taken a hard-line approach in dealing with a growing migrant crisis on its borders. During the last decade, more than 40,000 people have fled to Australia on unauthorized boats, and, according to the International Organization for Migration, they are overwhelmingly from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka. Nearly 1,500 have died while making the journey. They often cross harrowing seas, taking enormous risks in search of safety and opportunity in Australia.

The Australian government is desperate to stop this influx of refugees, and has built detention centers on remote islands that human rights groups argue are both illegal and inhumane.

In short, everywhere one looks, misery is rampant for those who flee to Australia. And Australia’s advertising campaigns to stop migrants from coming in the first place are now emphasizing exactly that.

The latest involves a series of advertisements featuring a cheerful-looking boat bobbing perilously in stormy seas. The bright red text screams, “NO WAY. YOU WILL NOT MAKE AUSTRALIA HOME.” The implication, of course, is not only that asylum does not await, but that the journey itself may result in death.

The English-language original has been translated into at least 16 languages, including Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu. Here’s the Tamil version:

 

The Australian government has also released a video to accompany the campaign in which a dour general informs aspiring refugees that they will absolutely not find a home in Australia.

Australia has tapped the misery well before. Earlier this year, the government released a graphic novel depicting an Afghan man’s horrific attempted journey to Australia.

It begins with the anonymous Afghan’s dream of a better life:

Then a crowded journey at sea:

Leading naturally to high seas:

Followed by a dramatic rescue:

But that rescue bears a false promise of salvation, leading only to a humiliating camp:

That camp is exchanged for another, leading only to more misery:

The comic ends with a dream:

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering cyberspace, its conflicts, and controversies. @eliasgroll

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