Europe Australia, Germany discuss Mediterranean migrant crisis

Australia, Germany discuss Mediterranean migrant crisis

 Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop ...
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop …

(AA) – Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has cautiously spoken about the possible implementation of Australia’s “stop-the-boats” policy in Europe amid growing concerns over the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Bishop told journalists, after a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Berlin, that strong measures against human smuggling had been successful in Australia, but acknowledged that conditions were not the same in Europe.

“I am very conscious of the fact that geographic circumstances are very different between Europe and Australia and I am very conscious of the fact that what works in one circumstance may or may not work in another,” she said.

“Prime Minister (Tony Abbott) has offered up the experience of Australia for others to consider. But it is for the governments and regions to make their own decisions as to what they believe will work to resolve these issues,” she added.

A boat carrying more than 700 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea on Sunday, in the latest migrant tragedy in Europe, increasing pressure on European leaders to take urgent measures.

Human rights organizations called for European countries to allocate more resources for the search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean, and accept more asylum seekers.

Several politicians suggested focusing on fight against trafficking and taking heavy measures against people smugglers similar to Australia.

Bishop said that Australia’s policy of not giving asylum to those who come to the country by paying smugglers and heavy measures against the smugglers had been successful.

“It has, as a result, dismantled the people smugglers trade in our region,” she said.

“For example in 2013, before we came into government, there were 300 boats making the dangerous journey to Australia with about 20,000 on board. We are aware of about 1,200 people, men, women and children died at the sea” she said.

“As a result of the policies we have taken, there have been no boats coming to Australia since January of 2014. No deaths at sea as a result,” she added.

Bishop said that Australia would continue its strict policy of not resettling anyone who come by people smuggling, but promote immigration through legal channels.

“There are legal channels of migration to Australia and we will continue to take people through our programs,” she said.

Steinmeier said that European countries would work on new measures to address the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, and underlined that much would be determined by political stability in northern Africa, particularly in Libya.

“We are working on four dimensions,” he said.

“First of all, we have to improve our sea rescue operations. We should also address the issue of distribution of refugees in Europe and fight the illegal trafficking,” he said.

Steinmeier underlined the importance of political developments in Libya to find a long-term solution to the crisis.

“We have to improve the situation in the southern neighborhood of the EU, we have to make this effort explicitly towards Libya,” he said.

“I hope that the special envoy of the UN will manage to bring about a government of unity in Libya.”

Critics say it was the West’s decision to help overthrow the Gaddafi regime in 2011 — leaving Libya without a functioning government — that has helped cause the crisis. The abandonment of Italy’s Mare Nostrum rescue operation last year and its replacement with the EU’s Triton scheme has also been seen as a significant factor.

The operation, which saved more than 140,000 lives, was cancelled due to cost and because critics said it encouraged refugees to flee to Europe across the Mediterranean.

Previous articleTurkey denies blocking airspace for Bosnian Serb politician
Next articleCalbuco volcano erupts in southern Chile; 1,500 evacuated