The Australian Prime Minister says he is fighting against illegal immigration, “at all costs”. He is now suspected of having paid smugglers to encourage them to turn around.
He refuses to deny. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, pressed to say whether or not Canberra paid migrant smugglers to return to Indonesia, will not reveal anything. “The simple answer is that the Australian government will do everything it has to do to ensure that this diabolical trade does not resume,” he said on Friday on 3AW radio. “We will stop this traffic at all costs. We’ve put an end to it and we’ll do everything to keep it that way.” Without giving more details.
Indonesia, for its part, has opened an investigation after the declarations of a captain and five members of the crew of a ship transporting 65 asylum seekers who wanted to reach Australia. These six smugglers claim to have each received more than 4,000 euros from the Australian immigration services to return to Indonesia with their passengers. Words corroborated by the migrants who were on the boat.
In Australia, the opposition is calling on Abbott to speak out on the issue, saying if the information were true it would encourage smugglers to cross, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. In any case, they greatly annoy Australia’s neighbors overwhelmed by the recent influx of migrants, starting with Indonesia: a spokesman for the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that if these accusations were correct, they would be ” truly regrettable”.
Since coming to power in September 2013, the conservative Abbott has only one goal in mind: “Stop the boats” (“stop the boats”). Through Operation Sovereign Borders, he instructed the military to manage the arrival of illegal migrants on Australian shores. Those who attempt the crossing are either forced to turn back (which creates tension with the countries that recover them, such as Indonesia), or sent back to camps in Papua New Guinea or on islands such as Nauru or Manus , during the examination of their file… Places where the conditions of detention are denounced by NGOs.
20 million euros of advertising campaigns
Australia does not hesitate to pay to discourage illegal immigration: the country concluded an agreement last year with Cambodia to transfer asylum seekers and refugees there in exchange for several million euros in development aid. Tony Abbott’s government also spent more than 20 million euros in one year – the budget initially planned for four years – on shock advertising campaigns aimed at dissuading illegal immigrants, with messages such as: “No way, you will not make Australia home” (No way, you will not settle in Australia). A video clip was even made with General Campbell, responsible for the “Sovereign Borders” operation. “If you arrive by boat without a legal visa, you cannot make Australia your residence. These rules apply to everyone: family, children, unaccompanied children…”.
If it annoys its neighbors and goes, according to NGOs, against the respect of individuals, Australia’s strategy is bearing fruit, retorts its government in any case. In 2014, asylum applications (mainly from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq or Burma) fell by 24% in Australia compared to 2013, from 11,700 applications to 9,000, according to a report by the United Nations Refugee Agency. The country disappeared from the list of the 15 countries receiving the most demand in the world. By comparison in Europe, 714,300 requests were registered last year, an increase of 47% compared to 2013.
Australia, which previously saw boats of illegal immigrants disembark every day, assures that since December 2013, only one of these boats has reached the Australian coast. She allows herself to teach the Europeans a lesson: last April, when the European Union was called upon to act in the face of the tragedies of migrants in the Mediterranean, the Australian Minister for Immigration, Peter Dutton, recalled that in ten – seven months, no deaths were to be deplored off the coast of his country.