Tony Abbott, the recently ousted prime minister of Australia, slammed Europe’s migration policies during a speech in London at an event honoring the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The continent, he warned, risked “fundamentally weakening itself” by rolling out the welcome mat for large numbers of migrants.
“All countries that say ‘anyone who gets here can stay here’ are now in peril, given the scale of the population movements that are starting to be seen,” said Abbott, who referred to the policies as “misguided altruism.”
Mr. Abbott backed an aggressive policy on migration during his two years in office. The Australian authorities turned away boats and refused to accept asylum seekers intercepted at sea, instead sending them to offshore camps. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who replaced Mr. Abbott in September in a party coup, has announced no change to those policies.
Mr. Abbott recommended the same approach for Europe. “This means turning boats around, for people coming by sea,” he said. “It means denying entry at the border, for people with no legal right to come. And it means establishing camps for people who currently have nowhere to go.”
Such a tough policy would “gnaw at our consciences, yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe and quite possibly changing it forever,” he said.
He also made clear that the asylum seekers are economic migrants, not refugees.
“In Europe, as with Australia, people claiming asylum invariably have crossed not one border but many, and are no longer fleeing in fear but are contracting in hope with people smugglers,” he said. “However desperate, almost by definition they are economic migrants because they had already escaped persecution when they decided to move again.”
The former prime minister’s comments were endorsed by the U.K.’s Independence Party, who’s leader lauded Abbott’s remarks as “heroic” and “absolutely right.”