Australian-style asylum island idea ‘can’t fully apply to EU’

© Pascal Rossignol
The system to deter migrants from heading to Australia can’t really apply to Europe as EU member states can’t agree on how to handle migration, political commentator Mariann Ory told RT.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said on Saturday the EU should take a tougher stance on migration. In an interview with Die Presse, Kurz suggested the union should adopt a refugee policy similar to Australia. Australia intercepts migrant boats at sea and sends them back to their home countries or keeps the migrants in Pacific island internment camps while their asylum claims are processed.

Brussels has already rebuffed the idea which has also sparked criticism from human rights groups.

At the start of the decade, Australia faced a refugee crisis identical to the current EU crisis with migrants dying at sea attempting to reach the country.

RT: What do you make of the Australian system of dealing with illegal migrants? All the humanitarian shortcomings aside, the policy did significantly curb the flow of boats.  Is that a good or bad idea?

Mariann Ory: The Australian system is certainly working for Australia in the way of deterring migrants from coming to the country. Obviously, in Europe’s case it would be different and it can’t be fully applied just as the Austrian Foreign Minister said.

RT: A while ago Australia and Malaysia signed a troubled migrant swap deal resembling the one the EU now has with Turkey. So isn't the EU already following in the footsteps of Australia?

MO: Well, one of the points suggested by the Austrian Foreign Minister resembles what the Hungarian government already said, because one of their main points is that the hotspots should be outside the territory of the EU. One of the reasons for it is that the agreements that the EU has with third countries is not really working. We see that there are problems with Turkey. The Libyan government has already said this weekend that they will not sign such a deal as Turkey did. So if the EU wants to send back migrants to African countries, then they should deal with those countries where the migrants come from, because they just cannot just live in Libya. So this is definitely a problem at this point to agree with the third countries. 

RT: Several months ago, the EU criticized Austria's cap on asylums seekers. Now it has clearly stated that it doesn't welcome the Australian idea. Would you expect relations between Vienna and Brussels to become even more strained?

MO: What the Austrian Foreign Minister says about the migration policy that he would suggest for the EU doesn’t mean that the EU will do it and it doesn’t mean even that Austria will follow such a policy. We can see a clear difference of opinions between the two parts of the Austrian coalition – between the OVP, the People’s Party, and the Social Democrats. The Social Democrats, the Greens, and the left intellectuals, NGOs have been criticizing Mr. Kurz for quite a while because of his suggestions to handle the migration. 

RT: Austria has already been significantly tightening its own refugee policies. Do you think that trend will continue?

MO: Well, we can definitely see that different member states of the EU have different opinions about how to handle the migration crisis. It is not surely about one or two countries’ conflict with Brussels – it’s a clash of completely different attitudes.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.