The former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott has urged Europe to adopt harsh Australian-style border protection policies to avoid “losing control” in the face of record numbers of people seeking asylum.
Abbott said the large numbers of people entering Europe “looks like a peaceful invasion” and said European countries risked losing their character if they allowed people he labeled “would-be economic migrants” to settle there.
The comments to a gathering of centre-right members of the European parliament in Prague on Saturday came as Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull,prepared to tell the United Nations in New York that Australia has the best border policies in the world.
Both argue that tighter border protection helped convince the Australian public to accept a higher refugee intake, justifying a harsh set of policies that has left more than 1,000 people in indefinite offshore detention to deter others attempting to reach Australia by boat.
The United Nations has said that both Australia’s system of indefinite offshore detention and the process of returning asylum seekers after a summary assessment are illegal under international law.
Abbott said “the prospect of millions of new Europeans from the Middle East and Africa streaming into Britain” had pushed Britons to “vote against losing control”.
“Uncontrolled immigration didn’t cause Brexit but it did prompt Britons to take back their sovereignty.”
He said that after Brexit, Britain would need a new visa system that would “end uncontrolled movement”.
Abbott lauded the former Australian prime minister John Howard, who famously said “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.
“Why shouldn’t each country keep the final say over who can enter?” Abbott asked.
“After all, a country or a continent that can’t control who enters its territory will eventually lose control of its future”.
Abbott said it was a “decent and a humane impulse to give a better life to people from wretched places”.
“But a million people coming by boat and almost a million people coming by land last year has the look of a peaceful invasion.”
Abbott argued that people who have gone beyond their first place of safety “[are not] asylum seekers but would-be economic migrants”. He did not address what those who were not allowed to remain permanently in transit countries should do.
Abbott said among the “would-be migrants” are “are soldiers of the caliphate bent on mayhem”, that many would “join an angry underclass” and many “are coming, not with gratitude but with grievance, and with the insistence that Europe should make way for them”.
“People in no immediate danger have to be turned back at Europe’s borders,” he said, including by intercepting people in the Mediterranean and returning them to their “starting point”.
“This crisis can’t be managed; it has to be resolved.”
Abbott lauded Australia’s border policies, which include turning boats back at sea, and intercepting boats and returning people to the countries they are fleeing, such as Sri Lanka, after only a summary assessment of their refugee claims.
“And having stopped the boats, we’ve been able to increase our genuine refugee intake because the Australian government has been in charge, not the people smugglers,” he said.
The flows of people into Europe have been hundreds of times greater than those seeking to come to Australia, including many coming by foot.
“Effective border protection is not for the squeamish, but it is absolutely necessary to save lives and to preserve nations,” Abbott said.
Abbott called for “an end to self-doubt about the entitlement of European nations, individually and collectively, to keep their character”.
He warned that if the “sensible centre scoffs at people’s real concerns” that “populism will increase”.
“Stand guard on your borders and you ease so much of the anxiety that now grips this great continent.”
In a cursory mention to another global crisis, Abbott said “we can’t do much to change climate”.
“But what’s the point of government if we can’t secure borders and control immigration?
“This is one lesson that my part of the new world might usefully offer to your part of the old one.”
Australia’s detention facilities have drawn heavy domestic and international criticism following the Guardian’s publication of the Nauru files, more than 2,000 leaked incident reports that laid bare the devastating abuse and trauma inflicted on children held there.
On Sunday immigration minister, Peter Dutton, defended conditions in offshore detention by comparing detention centres favourably to makeshift refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, areas just outside the war zone in Syria.