Rishi Sunak has failed in his pledge to ‘Stop the Boats’, and the £480 million deal he signed with France in March is nothing more than a gargantuan waste of money. In fact, the French have intercepted fewer migrants in the Channel this year than they did in 2022. If the Prime Minister is truly committed to stopping the boats he must look to Australia and not France for inspiration. It is ten years this summer since Australia solved its own small boat problem. It did so with determination, courage and a refusal to be cowed by howls of outrage from those who champion a borderless world.
It was Kevin Rudd’s Labour government that announced its ‘Regional Settlement Arrangement’ with Papua New Guinea. The scheme laid out a plan whereby any asylum seeker landing on Australian territory would be sent to Papua New Guinea for assessment. If they were deemed to be a refugee they would be resettled there. In addition, Australia also reactivated its pushback policy – first deployed between 2001 and 2003 – so that if the Australian navy intercepted any vessel in its waters, and organised the safe return of the passengers and crew to their countries of departure. The government said they had taken the measure because ‘our country has had enough of people smugglers exploiting asylum seekers and seeing them drown on the high seas.’
Much was made of the ‘c’ word. ‘We are a compassionate nation and we will continue to deliver a strong humanitarian program,’ said a government spokesman. ‘There is nothing compassionate about criminal operations which see children and families drowning at sea.’ Australians had been shocked by two tragedies in the previous three years involving migrant boats heading for their shores.