Are you Australia's hottest asylum seeker?

Greens senator Sarah Hanson Photoshopped onto a busty model’s body.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson Photoshopped onto a busty model’s body. Photo: zoo,

Yesterday, Crikey reported that flailing lad’s mag Zoo Weekly has applied its deft journalistic hand to the asylum seeker debate. It addressed it by doing what it does best: appealing to men's crotches with cleavage and lots of nekkedness. In this instance, they've thrown in a few added drops of sexism, some orientalist vibes and plain old crassness.

What do you do when you have scores of disenfranchised, brutalised people stepping on boats that may only just get you to your promised land? Why, you invite the women to take off their tops and share their tragedies, of course!

Kudos to the Zoo team, though, for their show of outstanding altruism. Rather than take a political point-scoring, fear-mongering approach to asylum seekers, the lad-mag wholeheartedly welcomes them. So long as you're female. And you have big knockers. And are willing to put them on display.

Above ... <i>ZOO</i>'s competition ad.

Above ... ZOO's competition ad. Photo: Image via Crikey

According to Crikey, the lads stepped into the refugee fray by offering the “next boatload” a place to stay if Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young agreed to get down to her undies or a bikini for a photo shoot. When she refused, they rather tastefully copied and pasted her face onto a lingerie-clad model instead.


In a further nod to good taste, the magazine has since run a double-page spread headlined “Sexiest Boat People”, featuring white babes in bikinis on a luxury yacht. However, despite its headline, you couldn't mistake them for that other type of boat people – desperate refugees who have risked their lives by climbing into a leaky boat, fleeing horrific lands at war and leaving behind homes, families and livelihoods.

But the boys at Zoo are just getting started.

In what can only be construed as an effort not to trivialise asylum seekers and their plight (that little old thing about escaping persecution, being displaced and so on), the feature includes pertinent refugee facts. For example, did you know that one in every 25 boat people dies making it to our shores? No? That's a shame. They do. One in 25. Fancy that.

Now please check out more babes in bikinis. On a boat.

But before you write it off as a desperate grab for attention and sales, like Playboy, I’m sure Zoo “has really good articles in it”, so let's give the boys a chance, shall we?

In what is clearly a well-intentioned attempt to “humanise” refugees, the magazine is also calling out for Australia’s Hottest Asylum Seeker. In a non-discriminatory policy, refugees have the right to be recognised as sexy boat people too, and Zoo is offering them the opportunity to do just that.

“Are you a refugee not even the immigration minister could refuse? We're looking for Oz's hottest asylum seeker … Send your pics and a short story about your tragic past to”

And, it seems, they're not even joking. Showing that you can turn devastation, trauma and a “tragic past” into a punchline, the clever crew at Zoo is asking refugees to swap “persecution for sexiness”.

Note, ladies: They want to “shoot you (with a camera – relax!)”.

About here is where you cue the ROFLs, LOLs and LMAOs, because escaping violence, warfare and oppression are just that funny.

While you can't help but have a bit of a stunned laugh at the sheer audacity of the call-out and magazine spread, you have to wonder how anyone at Zoo could have thought it's acceptable to make light of the terrible situation asylum seekers find themselves in. A serious humanitarian tragedy has been reduced to a crass boob-fest.

Of course, I can only imagine that for many of those reaching our shores, a top priority is to step off a leaky boat and bare their chests for randy men and pre-pubescent boys. No doubt, it's their great Australian Dream.


  • So glad Zoo wasn't around during the holocaust. They'd probably invite Jewish refugees to do a shower spread.

    I've worked with refugees before and they have to be some of the most amazing and strong people I've ever met. Reducing the women's remarkable lives to a set of bazoongas is something only Zoo could acheive.

    Welcome to the west.

    Date and time
    July 19, 2012, 8:54AM
    • I actually guffawed when I read this. And then i quickly quoted it and put it on my blog. It was too good to pass up.

      ps: Amal Awad, you're my hero. Thanks, yet again, for being such a brilliant writer.

      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 9:50AM
    • Anthony- you win at the internets today. Best comment ever. So true about the holocaust. Although I wouldn't give them ideas...

      Nina Funnell
      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 10:19AM
    • I can't believe some wanker is being paid more than me to come up with this sh*t.

      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 10:53AM
    • Already done mate -

      Check out the ''Miss Holocaust Survivor'' contest.

      Tony B
      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 4:24PM
  • As an Australian based in the Middle East who is passionate about refugee and asylum seeker issues, I find it in poor taste that "Zoo Weekly" will publish the headline "Australia's Hottest Asylum Seeker" and ask for submissions for such an issue.

    While there may be humor and some asylum seeker based trivia in the article, this does not take away the fact that they are publicizing a culturally and humanely insensitive perspective on the refugee and asylum seeker situation in Australia.

    There is a large majority of women who escape wars, genocide, rape and other inhumane acts against her or her family. Does Zoo honestly believe that promoting such an ideal of a "sexy asylum seeker" would benefit such a woman? Most of these women come from conservative backgrounds and the last thing a woman would want to do is bare her breasts for the world to see (most likely it is against her religion, culture or personal morals) after perhaps, experiencing grave trauma and fleeing her country, with or without her family.

    Shame on Zoo Weekly for being offensive to such women and making Australia seem like an ignorant, offensive, sexually exploitative (to women) nation.

    There needs to be a public apology from Zoo Weekly for publishing such degrading and insensitive tripe.

    Date and time
    July 19, 2012, 9:01AM
    • Its always weird when people get offended by risque comedy, then get outraged at how horirble it is, giving it heaps more publicity.

      Irony much?

      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 9:06AM
      • Oh.My.God. I...I can't even... No.

        rah rah
        Date and time
        July 19, 2012, 9:30AM
        • It's freaking disgusting. I too think the Zoo editor should make a public apology.

          Others agree - wendy harmer actually puts a nice little case to Zoo.

          A nice point was raised yesterday: these magazines are as offensive to men as they are women.

          Date and time
          July 19, 2012, 9:30AM
          • Calm down people. It's funny.

            Date and time
            July 19, 2012, 9:42AM

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