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Migrant crisis could be fixed by "stopping boats": Tony Abbott

CANBERRA, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday that Europe's migrant crisis could be fixed by closing borders to asylum seekers.

Abbott, delivering a speech to the annual Margaret Thatcher Lecture in London, said European nations risked making a "catastrophic error" in allowing too many migrants to pour into established countries, saying it could de-stabilize them and create a new wave of poverty.

"All countries that say 'anyone who gets here can stay here' are now in peril, given the scale of the population movements that are starting to be seen. There are tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of people, living in poverty and danger, who might readily seek to enter a Western country if the opportunity is there," Abbott said.

Drawing upon his hard-line "stop the boats" campaign which was widely regarded as a major reason Abbott was voted in at the 2013 election, the former prime minister said it was the only way of stopping the potentially catastrophic "surge" of illegal immigrants.

Abbott told the conservative party dinner that it was pivotal to "deny entry at the border for people with no right to come".

"It will require some force, it will require massive logistics and expense, it will gnaw at our consciences," Abbott said.

"Yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe and quite possibly changing it forever.

"No country or continent can open its borders to all comers without fundamentally weakening itself."

Meanwhile, Abbott's comments drew a backlash in Australia on Wednesday, with Catholic priests slamming the comments as "appalling", while Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning labeled the speech as "disappointing" and "simplistic".

"In terms of what Mr. Abbott's proposing in Europe, it would be an utter catastrophe if people fleeing from persecution were told to go back," Glendenning told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday morning.

"I find it very disappointing that a (former) Australian PM would say this."

Abbott was ousted from the position last month, when Malcolm Turnbull launched a successful leadership challenge following months of poor poll results.

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