Australia, which has accepted thousands of migrants from Afghanistan in recent years, is pressing ahead with a controversial plan to use a movie to persuade others from seeking refuge.
Australia’s Immigration Department has commissioned a television movie that shows the hardships of Afghans attempting to reach Australia. The film aims to deter potential migrants by showing them difficulties they may experience during the journey.
The movie, called "Journey," was filmed in Afghanistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. It follows a group of Afghan asylum-seekers as they encounter smugglers, dangerous waters and inhumane detention conditions while trying to reach Australia.
The film was shown in Afghanistan for the first time on Friday. It had previously been screened in Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran, and will be shown in a number of languages, including Arabic, Farsi, Pashto and Urdu.
Afghans make up the largest percentage of asylum-seekers arriving in Australia by boat. According to data published by Australia’s Parliament, many Afghans’ asylum application is approved. More than 7,200 Afghans resettled in Australia from 2008 to 2013.
Australia in recent years has tightened asylum policies to discourage migrants. The government also has distributed ads carrying harsh warnings.
The Australian Department of Immigration has argued that “telemovies are a proven way to reach and influence the target audience.”
But the idea has received fierce criticism. The president of The Refugee Council of Australia, Phil Glendenning, said last year, after the film was announced: “I don't think the government understands why people are on the move if they think a TV drama will be a deterrent.”
The project has also been criticized for its cost. The Age reports that the department paid more than $4 million to have the movie produced, and an additional $1.6 million to have it promoted and advertised.
Put It Out Pictures, the production company behind "Journey," said on its website that the film “aimed to educate and inform audiences in source countries about the futility of investing in people smugglers, the perils of the trip, and the hard line policies that await them if they do reach Australian waters.”