Far right European politicians have apparently ‘fallen in love’ with a particular aspect of Australian immigration policy, namely, the government’s abysmal treatment of asylum seekers. The current regime of dealing with illegal arrivals seeking asylum in Australia is built on two very contentious elements: turning back ‘boat people’ who seek to reach its shores by sea; running offshore detention centres in poor island states for illegal, sea-borne arrivals at vast expense.

Such a harsh approach is seen by both the current Australian government and the Labour Opposition as the unfortunate, but necessary, price to pay for deterring those who seek to enter illegally. Its advocates contend this approach has been successful in preserving popular support for Australia’s relatively modest Refugee and Humanitarian Program.

Despite being the object of international opprobrium, successive Australian governments – both centre-right and centre-left – have maintained this rather misguided and morally dubious regime of dealing with ‘queue-jumping’ asylum-seekers. The message seems to be: if you wish to seek asylum in Australia join the queue and have the patience to be processed through the normal channels. Both Malcolm Turnbull, the current Australian Prime Minister, and Tony Abbott, his nemesis and predecessor, are united in seeking to promote this policy as worthy of emulation by rich countries of the West. These countries, especially in Europe, are feeling besieged by a huge surge in refugees seeking to escape impoverishment and conflict from various parts of the world. No wonder European populists, who wish to whip up nativist sentiment in the midst of a global refugee crisis, are seduced by this siren song emanating from ‘Down Under’.

Please click here to read the full “Australia’s immigration policy: Political and economic lessons for Europe” article at Social Europe, written by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Professor Yan Islam.