Culture

Australia’s Boat Turnback Campaign Is So Great It’s Been Copied By An Anti-Islam Dutch Politician

"My message to all immigrants is clear: No way. You will not make the Netherlands home."

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Between being illegal, ineffective, severely in breach of human rights and condemned by everyone from the United Nations to the New York Times, Operation Sovereign Borders is arguably the worst policy the former Abbott government came up with, which is saying something. Even former Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made the decidedly Freudian slip of referring to it as “Operation Sovereign Murders” on camera.

One of the highlights of Sovereign Borders came in April last year, when the Department of Immigration released a video of Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, the head of the Operation, sternly lecturing would-be refugees that they would “never settle in Australia” if they tried to get here by boat. “No Way: You Will Not Make Australia Home” became the catchphrase of the campaign, pitched equally at desperate people living in vast refugee camps in south-east Asia and swing voters with Australian-flag profile pictures who think halal food is turning our kids Muslim.

Now the catchy slogan has been picked up by hard-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders — a guy who has previously compared the Koran to Mein Kampf and, according to in US diplomatic cables, “forments fear and hatred of immigrants”. As reported by the Herald‘s Jo Tovey yesterday, Wilders admires the policy so much he’s copying it verbatim, right down to his YouTube videos.

Wilders’ Party for Freedom advocates a moratorium on immigration from Muslim countries, a ban on the Koran and religious headscarves in public, and is actively hostile to Middle Eastern and Eastern European immigrants. Wilders himself frequently tours Europe and America warning of the coming “Islamisation” of the West.

A video Wilders released on YouTube earlier this year takes its visual cues entirely from the Immigration Department’s 2014 ‘No Way’ video featuring Lieutenant General Campbell. But that’s not all; Wilders also heaps praise on Operation Sovereign Borders and our policy of turning back boats, arguing that Europe should adopt the policy too. Speaking on the current European refugee crisis, Wilders has this to say:

“Australia tackles the problem in a more sophisticated way. The country sends refugees in safe ships back, back to the country of departure. It is called ‘push back’, and the Freedom Party says: let’s do it in the same way. Let the European marines patrol the coast of North Africa and all immigrants, without any exception, be sent back in a firm but safe manner.

“Only then will the flow be stopped and the problem disappear by itself. Only then will no people be drowned, and the horrible human trafficking will come to an end. Only then will Europe no longer be flooded with fortune-hunters.

“As for human traffickers who are ridiculing and mocking us, let us follow the Australian example. Australia is a civilised country. It is handling business in a civilised, wise but tough way. We have to do the same.

“And my message to all immigrants is clear: [in English] No way. No way. You will not make the Netherlands home.”

Wilders will be in the country later this month for the launch of the Australian Liberty Alliance, an anti-Islam political party modelled on Wilders’ doctrines that’s aiming for 20 percent of the vote at the next election. Wilders planned an Australian tour in 2012 at the invitation of the Q Society, a far-right anti-Islam fringe group, but the tour was cancelled after a delay in processing his visa.

Then-Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said he would not block Wilders’ visa application because “I believe that our democracy is strong enough, our multiculturalism robust enough and our commitment to freedom of speech entrenched enough that our society can withstand the visit of a fringe commentator from the other side of the world”.

It remains to be seen whether government politicians like George Christensen and Cory Bernardi, who’ve expressed similar sentiments to Wilders in the past, help spruik his speaking tour, or just how successful it proves to be. But given both major parties either support or are open to supporting boat turn-backs, Wilders’ ideas are a little more entrenched in Australian politics than you’d think.

Via the Sydney Morning Herald.