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Yes, Australia's Anti-Refugee Ads Are Really Now In War Zones

The government advertisements warn refugees fleeing persecution they'll never be allowed to set foot in Australia if they get on boats.

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Wall Street Journal Middle East columnist Yaroslav Trofimov was scrolling through a news story on his phone on Sunday when this Australian anti-refugee ad popped up.

Twitter: @yarotrof

"I was using an iPhone and a local network, Korek," said Trofimov, who spoke to BuzzFeed News via email from the northern Iraqi city of Erbil.

"The ad was embedded in a Reuters story."

According to Trofimov, the text on the advertisement, which depicts an asylum-seeker boat on choppy waters and directs people to more anti-refugee messages on Australia's immigration website, translates in English as "IMPOSSIBLE".

As anti-refugee advertising spreads among the tens of thousands of people fleeing active war zones, Australian bombers and special forces continue to contribute to the anti-ISIS war effort in Syria and northern Iraq.

The ads are a signature element of the Australian government's "Operation Sovereign Borders", which has seen the military called in to tow back asylum-seeker boats to Indonesia.

The operation has been heralded by some right-wing groups in Europe as a great success. Australia's PR tactics were even adopted by prominent Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders earlier this year.

It comes as prime minister Malcolm Turnbull moves to ban refugees who travel by boat to Australia from ever setting foot here.

Turnbull's reasoning is that if Australia can discourage the illegal maritime people-smuggling trade, the country can accept more refugees fleeing persecution in Iraq and Syria.

Mark Di Stefano is a political editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at mark.distefano@buzzfeed.com.

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