Rob Virtue, Express, March 18, 2016
A controversial policy to stop migrant attempts to enter Australia has been hailed a success after the government announced it had gone 600 days without any refugee boats arriving.
Canberra issued the hardline guideline to turn back incoming sea vessels after 1,200 people died trying to get to reach the country between 2008 and 2013.
Since the policy, which Australia said was designed to stop migrant deaths at sea, no successful attempt had been made and 25 boats have been turned back or taken to remote Pacific Island camps.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said: “Tomorrow marks 600 days since the last successful people-smuggling venture to our country and the government’s absolutely determined to make sure that it stays that way.”
Under the policy even genuine refugees on boats are not allowed to settle in Australia.
Instead they are kept on Pacific island camps, including the Christmas Island which suffered major riots last year.
The guidelines have been criticised by human rights groups who say the offshore migrant camps should be closed.
But Dutton declared it as a victory against people smugglers.
He said: “Since Operation Sovereign Borders began, 25 boats carrying 698 people have been turned back and safely returned to their country of departure.
“The flow of intelligence and recent research informs us we must remain resolute because people smugglers in their operations continue and we stare that threat down on a regular basis.
“We do know that 14,000 people are positioned in Indonesia. They are prepared to hop on boats. That is not to speak of the threat that exists in other countries in the region.”
Ex-prime minister Tony Abbott warned Britain last year to make sure migrant boats were turned back or Europe would collapse.
But those words went unheeded and it was this week revealed 2,000 migrants were still making it into the EU by sea every day.
The Australian government has also decided to take in 12,000 Syrians hit by the Middle East crisis.