Tony Abbott has told European leaders to simply "stop the boats" flooding to Italy from Libya after up to 1,300 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean in a week.
The Australian Prime Minister, whose government was elected on that same promise, has been criticised for his stance but claims it saves lives.
Calling the crisis in Europe a "terrible, terrible tragedy", he said: "The only way you can stop the deaths is to stop the people smuggling trade.
"The only way you can stop the deaths is, in fact, to stop the boats.
"That's why it is so urgent that the countries of Europe adopt very strong policies that will end the people smuggling trade across the Mediterranean.”
Mr Abbott’s government has implemented a controversial policy of turning back asylum seekers trying to reach Australia from south-east Asia. Last year, authorities stopped 441 migrants in 10 vessels, according to UN figures, forcing them back to the countries they fled after “processing” them offshore.
There have been reports of hunger strikes at the immigration centre on Christmas Island, and attempted suicide and self-harm in a detention centre on Manus island, Papua New Guinea, but authorities refuse to comment on the specifics of “Operation Sovereign Borders”.
After its own series of disasters involving asylum seekers dying at sea, Australia banned those who arrive by boat from ever being settled in the country.
In pictures: Migrant boat disaster
In pictures: Migrant boat disaster
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Rescuers help children to disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy
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A child is carried by a rescue worker as he arrives with migrants on the boat at the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo
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A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo, Italy
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A boat transporting migrants arrives in the port of Messina after a rescue operation at sea
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Italian Coast Guard officers disembark the body of a dead migrant off the ship Bruno Gregoretti, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
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Armed Forces of Malta personnel in protective clothing carry the body of a dead immigrant off Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti as surviving migrants watch in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
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Rescued migrants talk to a member of the Malta Order after a fishing boat carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast, is brought ashore along with 23 others retreived by the Italian Coast Guard vessel Bruno Gregoretti at Boiler Wharf, Senglea in Malta
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Bodies of dead immigrants lie on the deck of the Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
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Italian coastguard personnel in protective clothing carry the body of a dead immigrant off their ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour
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Italian coastguard personnel in protective clothing stand on the deck of their ship 'Bruno Gregoretti', carrying dead immigrants on board, as it arrives in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand, Harbour
Jim Molan, a retired Australian Army major-general who helped develop the policy, dubbed Europe's response to the Mediterranean crisis "incompetent".
"The human tragedy is immense and is worsened by Europe's refusal to learn from its own mistakes and from the efforts of others who have handled similar problems," he wrote in The Australian newspaper.
But the Refugee Council of Australia said “stopping the boats” risks lives and returns desperate refugees to countries where they face poverty, conflict, persecution and death.
Paul Power, the chief executive, said more than 40 Sri Lankan migrants refused asylum by Australia were subsequently found to be refugees by the UN.
“What further evidence does the government need that it is not possible to accurately assess asylum claims of frightened and traumatised people through an accelerated process on the high seas?” he added.
“In its ostensible bid to save lives as sea, the government is recklessly placing lives in peril.
The Council said it was “greatly troubled” by authorities’ refusal to provide details of turn-back operations, how migrants are held, on what basis their claims are assessed and whether they are given legal assistance.
“It is likely that Australia has violated multiple international treaties,” Mr Power said.
“It is also likely that the lives and safety of asylum seekers are now in danger because of Australia’s actions.”
Mr Abbott’s intervention came as European leaders continued attempts to respond to the influx of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and Africa after two shipwrecks took as many as 1,300 lives in the past week.
An emergency summit is due to be held on Thursday to discuss how to stop human trafficking.
Additional reporting by APReuse content