Austria is launching an online information campaign against illegal immigration, Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner announced at a press conference on Tuesday.
According to the Austrian People’s Party politician, the campaign will cost around €260,000 and will be conducted in eight countries, including Tunisia, Morocco and India, whose citizens have recently submitted a large number of asylum applications in Austria; these applicants “have almost no chance” of a positive outcome.
Karner said the information campaign is a kind of “counter-marketing and counter-narrative against the lies of people smugglers.” The aim, he said, is to expose “legends surrounding migration” and to warn people not to rely on people smugglers. And the central message is that there is “no way, no chance” of illegal migration.
The minister of the interior said that “dramatic actions” will also be presented in the campaign, as “this is absolutely necessary.” It must be made clear to people that their lives are at risk, he added.
The information campaign is primarily being carried out on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as on the Google search interface.
Karner also spoke of how people smugglers adapt “very quickly and very skillfully” to international developments such as the war in Ukraine. He emphasized that criminals have changed their marketing accordingly, promoting that Europe has opened its doors again and is welcoming people. The head of the ministry underlined that this is why counter-marketing is needed. In the future, if someone in Morocco, India, or Tunisia is looking for cheap flights to, for example, Belgrade, a message compiled by the Austrian Ministry of the Interior warning against illegal immigration will appear in the local language.
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In this context, Rasha Corti, a member of the Austrian Council of Integration Experts and of Syrian origin, spoke about the “economic abuse of the right to asylum.” As he said, human traffickers take advantage of the high unemployment in the Maghreb countries to offer people false hopes, a “European El Dorado.” He revealed that as an interpreter, he has translated thousands of SMS and voice messages of people smugglers. In part, these reveal particular cruelty, humiliation, and a rejection of human dignity, while the business of criminals who act out of greed is very lucrative.
Gerald Tatzgern from the Austrian Federal Investigation Agency painted a similar picture regarding the business around illegal immigration. He said that criminals call migrants “goods” in a humiliating way. “Goods must not spoil” is synonymous with “migrants must not die,” and “throw away the vegetables” means “get rid of the dead bodies,” explained Tatzgern.
He said that criminals often use tourist boats to advertise the trips to Italy, and therefore the counter-campaign is extremely important. He added that many migrants do not even know what awaits them on the journey to Europe.