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Pacific News Minute: Former Australian PM Tells Europe to Turn Away Migrants

Wikipedia Commons
Wikipedia Commons

In a speech in London this week, former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that Europe should respond to its migrant crisis the same way Australia did: turn away the boats and close the borders.  Abbott was forced out of office last month and this is his first major speech since. More from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

"All countries that say 'anyone who gets here can stay here' are now in peril," Abbott said.  Citing what he called "misguided altruism" as a "catastrophic error". The controversial Australian model he advocates turns away everyone who tries to arrive by sea.  Asylum seekers are sent to camps on the island nation of Nauru and on a remote atoll in Papua New Guinea - camps critics protest as unhealthy, unsafe, and unfair.

Abbott told an audience at a fundraiser for the Margaret Thatcher Center - that it should turn away the migrants too. “This would require some force”, he said, adding, "it will 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."

Abbott argued that those arriving in both Australia and Europe are by definition economic migrants - not refugees, because they escaped immediate danger once they crossed the first border, from Syria into Turkey, for example.

Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young tweeted: Tony Abbott is making a fool of himself and embarrassing Australia. Retired Bishop Pat Power was one of several Catholic priests to protest that such remarks from a former seminary student were at odds with Christianity. "I'm ashamed," he said.

The rich countries of the Pacific Rim face nothing like the numbers seeking asylum in Europe, but rising seas and fiercer storms may soon generate a tide of climate migrants.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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