European nativist parties have embraced Australia’s hardline tactics for managing asylum seekers and refugees – but their true agenda is to keep Muslims out. By Sasha Polakow-Suransky
In October 2015, six weeks after Tony Abbott was deposed as Australia’s prime minister in a fit of intraparty backstabbing, he arrived in London to give the Margaret Thatcher memorial lecture at Guildhall. Standing before an audience of Conservative party luminaries, he praised the Iron Lady before launching into a spirited defence of Australia’s controversial immigration policy. According to Abbott, his government’s harsh measures – forcibly turning around refugee boats to prevent them landing, and sending asylum seekers to detention camps on remote Pacific islands – had ended the arrival of unwanted migrants in Australia.
After a summer when more than a million asylum seekers had streamed into Europe, Abbott lectured the assembled Tories about the perils of loving one’s neighbour as oneself, calling it a “wholesome instinct [that is] leading much of Europe into catastrophic error”. Due to “misguided altruism”, Europe was weakening itself, argued Abbott, and the only way to reverse the tide, he insisted, was emulating Australia’s policy.