Sydney (dpa) – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott won the 2013
election partly on a three-word slogan: “Stop the boats.” It was a
pledge to do whatever it took to stop immigrants from Indonesia and
other parts of Asia illegally reaching Australian shores.
Since then, he has fulfilled that promise: no boats carrying migrants
have reached Australian shores since December 2013, down from some
200 the year before.
His hardline policy calls for intercepting boats at sea, putting the
passengers into lifeboats and towing them to Indonesia, where most of
the vessels originate.
Thousands of others have been taken to detention centres on Nauru or
Manus Island in Papua New Guinea that were set up by the previous
From there, those who choose to go can be settled in places like
Cambodia and Papua New Guinea that have signed lucrative agreements
with Canberra to take them.
Abbott says that shutting the door to undocumented migrants,
including genuine political refugees, is the only way to stop people
from setting out and sometimes drowning at sea on poor quality boats.
The operations to stop the boats are carried out under strict secrecy
by a new, black-uniformed paramilitary group. Workers at detention
centres can be jailed for two years if they reveal conditions in the
The opposition Labor Party has agreed to nearly all the government
moves, and the policies are seen as popular among the electorate.
A Lowy Institute poll found 71 per cent of Australians agree with the
policy of turning back boats when it is safe to do so.