The Courier-Mail

PM firm on ‘no boats’ stance

- STEVEN SCOTT

TONY Abbott has talked down the likelihood of Australia increasing its intake of refugees fleeing Syria, despite calls from ministers Barnaby Joyce and Julie Bishop.

The Prime Minister said other countries could learn from his policy of turning back asylum-seeker boats.

He said the image of a three-year-old Syrian boy drowned as his family tried to reach Greece should encourage countries to stop peoplesmug­gling.

“If you can stop illegal immigratio­n, one of the beneficial side-effects is that you don’t have deaths at sea,” he said.

“We had – as you might remember – the harrowing business of people dying on the rocks of Christmas Island just a few years ago as part of that evil people-smuggling trade, and thank God we’ve stopped it because when you stop the trade, you stop the deaths.”

But The New York Times described Mr Abbott’s noboats policy as “brutal” and “inhumane”.

“His policies have been inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecutio­n and war,” the paper’s editorial said.

But Mr Abbott said his policies were “compassion­ate” because they ultimately stopped deaths at sea. “I know there has been quite a bit of interest in the policies that Australia has put in place, because if you do stop the people-smuggling trade ... obviously you end the deaths at sea,” he said.

“The most compassion­ate thing you can do in the medium and long term is to close down this evil trade, because as long as this evil trade is operating, as long as people are taking to the sea in unsafe boats, we will see the drownings.”

Mr Abbott said the Government announced plans to take an extra 4400 refugees from Syria and Iraq a year ago.

Opposition immigratio­n spokesman Richard Marles called on the Government to boost funding to UN refugee agency UNHCR, saying: “Australia must show leadership, decency and compassion.”

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