Australia spends millions on film to discourage migrants
The Australian government has been criticised for its lavish budget to fund a feature-length film aimed at persuading potential migrants to stay at home, including more than €1.1million paid to a company run by an Afghan who was himself a refugee to Australia.
The 90-minute fictional film, The Journey, was commissioned by the federal immigration department and depicts a group of Afghan migrants who encounter people smugglers and treacherous waters as they try to make their way be sea to Australia.
It made its debut on television in Afghanistan last week and has also been broadcast in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan.
The total cost of the film is said to have exceeded six million Australian dollars (€3.75m).
But the film has come under heavy criticism, particularly after it emerged that it has cost more than some of Australia's top-grossing films of all time, including Strictly Ballroom, directed by Baz Luhrmann, and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which featured Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp.
Some analysts questioned whether the expense was necessary, noting that Australia's harsh migration policies in recent years have already brought the inflow to an effective halt.
Adding to the controversy, it has emerged that a company paid about €113,000 to promote the film was owned by Saad Mohseni, who fled to Australia from Afghanistan as a youth.
Sometimes labelled the "Rupert Murdoch of Afghanistan", Mr Mohseni went to school in Melbourne and worked in finance before moving back to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban and becoming a media mogul.
Mr Mohseni''s media empire includes Lapis Communications, which was paid to promote the Australian anti-immigration film, and Tolo TV, the Afghan channel which broadcast the film.
A spokeswoman for Lapis defended Mr Mohseni's involvement in the film, saying it would help to raise the awareness of the risks of people smuggling.
More than a thousand migrants from Afghanistan and other nations have died while attempting the dangerous passage by sea to Australia from Indonesia, a transit country.
"The ideas and values around the film are grounded in addressing a very serious and tragic issue - with the ultimate objective of saving lives," the Lapis spokeswoman told Fairfax Media.
"This film is close to our hearts, and in Afghanistan we have seen the bodies of Afghans who have attempted such journeys arriving back in the country - this has even included members of our team and their families. (© Daily Telegraph London)