Mauro Buccarello / AP

EU rebuffs Australia's Abbott over migrant advice claim

Prime Minister said countries sought Canberra's advice; Brussels makes clear Australia model contrary to its ideals

The European Union has made clear it has no intention of adopting Australia's much-criticized migration policy despite suggestions from Prime Minister Tony Abbott that some European countries have been seeking his government’s advice on the matter.

The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, says Canberra does not respect the international standard on protecting refugees of “non-refoulement” — a U.N. principle prohibiting expulsion to a country where they could face violence or prison.

Commission migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said Monday that the EU “applies the principle of non-refoulement — we have no intention of changing this — so of course the Australian model can never be a model for us.”

It comes after Abbott indicated that countries within the EU had reached out to Australia for advice on how to handle the surge of boats carrying migrants across the Mediterranean Sea to European shores.

“My understanding is that there has been some contact at official level between Australian people and Europeans,” said Abbott on Monday.

Australia's migration model was widely cited in debate at the European Parliament last week, as the EU struggles to cope with thousands of migrants seeking to enter Europe via Libya.

Over the weekend alone nearly 6,000 people were rescued by Italian and French rescue boats at sea. 

Abbott did not identify which European country or countries had sought Australian advice.

Australia's policy 'cruel'

Refugee advocates and human rights groups have criticized Abbott's conservative government over drastic tactics it has used under its Operation Sovereign Borders, which seeks to stop the flow of people-smuggling boats heading from Indonesian ports with asylum seekers from Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Australia deters asylum seekers by refusing to allow those attempting to arrive by boat to ever settle in Australia.

In January, Australia's High Court ruled that holding asylum seekers at sea was legal after 157 Sri Lankan Tamils sought compensation for being held on a ship for a month.

They were ultimately transferred to the island of Nauru for processing.

Australia pays poor Pacific nations Nauru and Papua New Guinea to keep asylum seekers in detention camps described by Amnesty International as "excessively cruel and prison-like."

The camps have been the scene of riots and protests as detainees held there complain of poor treatment. Australian authorities have launched an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse in a Nauru processing center.

Australia has also agreed to pay Papua New Guinea and Cambodia to resettle genuine refugees under bilateral deals that critics argue are an abrogation of Australia's responsibilities under the Refugee Convention.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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