Abbott to Farage: Bojo Needs His ‘Mojo’, Must Start Sending Back Illegal Boat Migrants to France

Tony Abbott
The Associated Press

In an interview with Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage, the former prime minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, said that Britain needs to take a hard stance in stopping illegal boat migrants sailing across the English Channel from France in order to halt the growing crisis.

Mr Farage, who has been actively exposing the increased levels of migrants flowing across the Channel during the national coronavirus lockdown, spoke to the former Aussie PM — well known for his successful hard-line approach to tackling illegal boat migration — to see what the UK should be doing to quell the growing influx.

In the interview, the arch Brexiteer noted that the French navy has been “escorting” boat migrants into British territorial waters, adding that the UK Border Force is then “happy to pick these people up”.

Mr Abbott replied that his country experienced a similar problem, in which the Coast Guard was acting more as a “Coast Guide” in bringing illegal boat migrants from Indonesia ashore at Christmas Island, an Australian territory off the coast of the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

“We had a similar situation, in some respects, at least, during the Rudd-Gillard era. The Australian navy was patrolling the seas between Java and Christmas Island. We were routinely coming across people-smuggling boats, which were inevitably unseaworthy, and our navy picked up the passengers and took them to Christmas Island, which was exactly what they wanted,” Abbott said.

“You’ve got to be firm to be fair, you’ve got to be tough to be kind in the end, and the kindest thing you could do is to close down the people-smuggling trade. That means as soon as you come across a people-smuggling boat, you stop it and take it back to the place from where it came,” he told Nigel Farage on Monday.

The government of the United Kingdom has claimed that under international maritime laws, the French navy cannot stop the migrant filled vessels from crossing the Channel unless the migrants request for help.

This justification comes in contrast to the policy by carried out Mr Abbott’s government during Operation Sovereign Borders, which after its introduction in 2013 has effectively shut down illegal boat migration to the country.

The border policy enabled the Australian border force to intercept migrant boats at sea, where they will either be turned back to where they set off from, or be taken to off-shore asylum processing centres in third countries.

The former Australian leader said that prior to his term in office, between two and three per cent of all migrants that attempted to sail to Australia lost their lives at sea.

“If you keep giving the people-smugglers a product to sell, you will keep getting people smuggling and inevitably if you have people smuggling you will get deaths at sea,” Abbott said.

“You can understand why people from rotten countries would want to get to wonderful countries and frankly you can understand why Calais would just be a way station for these people, just as Jakarta was a way station.

“Who wouldn’t want to get to the United Kingdom — such a wonderful, free, fair, and prosperous country?” Mr Abbott said.

“But as long as the French facilitate their passage, France will have a problem as well as Britain. If it takes a bit of toughness on Britain’s part — Bojo has his mojo, let’s face it — let’s send them back,” the former Aussie PM concluded.

So far this year, over 1,700 illegal migrants have been brought ashore by the British Border force, compared to 1,890 during the entire year of 2019. Since January of last year, just 155 migrants have been returned to Europe.

Home secretary Priti Patel is reportedly trying to secure a deal with her French counterpart that would see migrants who are caught in the English Channel immediately returned to France. Yet, there has been no indication that such a deal is imminent.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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