Australia has urged Europe to adopt very strong policies to end people-trafficking across the Mediterranean Sea and offered to lend its expertise on how to “stop the boats.”
“Plainly there is a terrible, terrible tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean right now,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Canberra.
“The only way you can stop the deaths is to stop the people-smuggling trade. The only way you can stop the deaths is in fact to stop the boats,” he said.
“That’s why it is so urgent that the countries of Europe adopt very strong policies that will end the people smuggling trade across the Mediterranean.”
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was quoted in a report by broadcaster ABC as saying Australia would be happy to discuss with European countries the laws and policies it put in this regard.
“We have managed to stop the flow of people via the people-smuggling trade but we have to be ever vigilant. So we are happy to share our experiences.”
Australia would share details of the laws and policies it put in place, she said. Bishop is on a visit to Europe this week, with stops in Paris, Berlin and Brussels.
“We know that about 1,200 people died trying to get to Australia via the people-smuggling trade and we were determined to put an end to that, and we have done so,” Bishop said.
Abbott and Bishop’s remarks came as the EU considers an action plan to curb migrant deaths at sea, after a vessel capsized off the coast of Libya at the weekend, possibly claiming the lives of more than 900 migrants.
In Luxembourg on Monday, EU ministers agreed on the need to fight people trafficking networks, strengthen the duty to save lives at sea and share responsibility to resettle refugees.
EU leaders are expected Thursday, during an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis, to consider adopting a 10-point plan to tackle migration.
Abbott, the leader of the Conservative Liberal Party, won office as prime minister in September 2013 after he promised voters he would “stop the boats”.
The immigration policies of his government are widely criticized by human rights groups at home and abroad. It houses asylum seekers – a small number of whom arrived by sea – in detention centres on the mainland and offshore.