When did refugees come to Australia?

Australian refugee policyBoat refugees with no prospects

First there were horror videos with sharks, poisonous snakes and crocodiles with their mouths wide open, then the fatal dangers of the crossing were shown: 15 years ago, the Australian government made it clear to boat refugees that if you try to come to Australia illegally, you won't have a new life waiting for you , but detention pending deportation.

Transport to remote camps

But the boats got on, so they were sent back and multilingual media campaigns started in the refugee countries.

The commander of the Australian border guards warned in uniform: Anyone who believes people smugglers and tries to sneak in by sea will be caught - and would never even set foot in Australia.

Anyone who was picked up by the navy anyway ended up in remote island camps on Nauru or in Papua New Guinea - out of sight, out of mind, but with success. Not a single boat refugee has been granted asylum in Australia in five years and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promises it will stay that way.

"A strong Australia is a safe Australia. We stopped the people smugglers and thus prevented refugees from drowning while crossing the high seas. That is why we must continue to protect our borders. And I will do that as long as I am Prime Minister of Australia."

A poster of the Australian government campaign to ward off illegally entered refugees (dpa / picture alliance)

Role model for Europe?

One asylum seeker who does not come to Australia in the first place or who does not leave is one of the few who have to be deported again later. Canberra's tough course has not changed - unlike the social acceptance of the strict refugee policy. Formerly controversial, a party that is for open borders is not elected today, because a large majority in the immigration country Australia does not want economic migrants.

Roula and Con Generakis are the children of Greek immigrants from Australia. They wonder, "Why would illegal smugglers be able to steal their way through the back door when it took their families years to legally get into Australia?"

"The refugees do not have the right to simply come to us and demand that freedom and generosity be handed to them on a silver platter - our parents had nothing. They had to work for everything here."

"These are illegals. They crowd in front of other refugees who are sitting in camps. That's why we shouldn't take in boat refugees."

Criticism from the partner countries

Papua New Guinea no longer wants to be Australia's deportation camp, but around 700 internees from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan are still in the country. Nobody is holding on to them, stresses the Australian government. Asylum seekers could settle in Papua New Guinea, back to their homeland or to Cambodia, a country with which Australia has a relocation agreement. The refugees want to go to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane - they are refused. Refugee attorney David Manne believes: wrongly.

"Spending billions locking people in and out of Australia looking for a safe life is legally, morally, practically and financially unsustainable. It can't go on like this. The government must find a sensible solution to this cruel problem."

Members of Greenpeace hold up a sign reading "Let them stay" in front of the Sydney Opera House (archive image 2016) (AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS)

No passage for tug boats, deporting refugees, closing the borders. Australia's solution is isolation, the policy of Turnbull's predecessor Tony Abbott. He advises Europe to do the same. People who have traveled through several safe third countries are no longer refugees, but migrants - not looking for security, but for a life that is well cared for. For Abbott, these refugees are "asylum tourists" who choose the country that promises them the most lifelong welfare and demands the least integration. The politician emphasizes: "Australia did everything right. No country is safe without safe borders". Not even in Europe.

"That means sending refugee boats back, turning away anyone at the border who has no right to enter, and setting up detention and deportation camps. Sometimes violence has to be used, the effort and costs are enormous. But it is the only way to to prevent a wave of migrants from rolling over Europe and changing the continent forever. "