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Abbott: Europe seeks migrant advice

Published 04/05/2015

Tony Abbott said there had been contact at official level between Australia and Europeans
Tony Abbott said there had been contact at official level between Australia and Europeans

Europeans grappling with mass migration from Libya want information about Australia's controversial success in stopping asylum seeker boats reaching its shores, Tony Abbott said.

The Australian prime minister said there had been contact at official level between his country and Europeans.

He did not identify which European country or countries had sought Australian advice.

Human rights groups have criticised his conservative government over drastic tactics it has used under its Operation Sovereign Borders policy to stop the flow of people-smuggling boats heading from Indonesian ports with asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia.

Mr Abbott said: "Obviously Operation Sovereign Borders is an object lesson in how to do the right thing by everyone.

"Do the right thing by our people and ultimately do the right thing by poor, misguided people who for all sorts of reasons want a better life but who very often end up dead if they succumb to the lure of the people smugglers."

Australia deters asylum seekers by refusing to allow those attempting to arrive by boat ever to settle.

Australia pays poor Pacific nations Nauru and Papua New Guinea to keep asylum seekers in detention camps.

The country has also agreed to pay Papua New Guinea and Cambodia to resettle genuine refugees under bilateral deals that critics argue are an abrogation of Australia's responsibilities under the Refugee Convention.

Since Mr Abbott's coalition was elected in September 2013, Australian navy and customs boats have routinely turned asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia.

Indonesia complains that sending foreigners to its shores is disrespectful of its sovereignty, but few of the boats are now intercepted in the waters north of Australia.

During the previous Labour Party's six-year reign, about 50,000 asylum seekers people headed for Australia in more than 800 boats.

In Italy, the coastguard and navy as well as tugs and other commercial vessels joined forces to rescue migrants in at least 16 boats yesterday.

They saved hundreds of people, and recovered 10 bodies off Libya's coast, as smugglers took advantage of calm seas to send packed vessels across the Mediterranean.

The coastguard said the bodies were found in three separate rescue operations off Libya's coast. In one case, a cargo ship found three migrants dead and 105 survivors on a dinghy in the waters north of Tripoli.

Yesterday's drama came a day after 3,690 migrants were saved from smugglers' boats. Most of those migrants were still being taken to southern Italian ports even as the fresh rescues were taking place.

The soaring numbers sparked the latest round of calls from far-right politicians in Europe for drastic action to stop migrants from reaching European shores.

The EU's executive Commission says Canberra does not respect the international standard on protecting refugees of "non-refoulement," which is a UN principle prohibiting expulsion to a country where they could face violence or prison.

Commission migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said today that the EU "applies the principle of non-refoulement - we have no intention of changing this - so of course the Australian model can never be a model for us."

Australia's migration model was widely cited in debate at the European Parliament last week.

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