Facing Its Own Immigration Crisis, Australia Tells Refugees to Get Lost

Sure, international groups will not be happy, added Economou, but Abbott “is convinced the majority of Australians support his policy.”

As President Obama heads to Texas to talk with Governor Rick Perry about the surge of undocumented children from Latin America crossing the border, Australia is facing a long-simmering immigration crisis of its own. For years, refugees from Asia have boarded unsafe boats and tried to land Down Under, sometimes with tragic results. An Australia-bound boat carrying 200 men sank in June 2012, with about 90 people suspected to have died. That was just one of a series of fatal incidents since 2010 in which boat people died trying to find refuge in Australia.

Tony Abbott, the conservative prime minister who won election last year while promising to crack down on asylum seekers, is determined to avoid the fate of his Labor Party predecessors. Julia Gillard, prime minister at the time of the 2012 sinking, fumbled the immigration issue and eventually became the victim of a party coup by former premier Kevin Rudd—who went on to lose the general election to Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition in September.

Abbott promised to “stop the boats,” but they’re still coming. His government on Monday said it had intercepted a vessel near the Cocos Islands, specks of Australian-administered land in the Indian Ocean that make up “Australia’s last unspoilt paradise,” as the government website writes. The refugees onboard the ship won’t get a chance to see it, though, or any other part of Australia, as Abbott’s government sent 41 passengers back to Sri Lanka.


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