Australian lawyer and television personality Waleed Aly has slammed the Australian government’s refugee policy as “poisonous” in an op-ed for The New York Times.
In the article published on Thursday (AEST), the outspoken academic and activist compared Australian politics to a sedative, “rendering all else some indecipherable white noise” so “we can snooze through any bombshell”.
Aly’s piece comes after an Amnesty International report released on October 17 found Australia’s offshore detention of refugees and asylum seekers in processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island “amounts to torture”.
“The Government of Australia’s ‘processing’ of refugees and asylum-seekers on Nauru is a deliberate and systematic regime of neglect and cruelty, and amounts to torture under international law,” the report stated.
In his piece, Aly cited the constant refrain of former prime minister Tony Abbott, “stop the boats”, as the reason for Australians’ acceptance of, or even support for, the controversial policy.
“None of it registers, because as long as boats carrying asylum seekers aren’t making it to Australia, all is justified,” he wrote.
Aly slammed the government’s plan to send detainees elsewhere or encourage them to return home to conflict-ravaged countries as “brutality repackaged as compassion”.
“These are the starkly utilitarian terms of the policy: We sacrifice the lives of innocent people to dissuade others from risking theirs,” he wrote.
He also highlighted the “contagion” effect Australia’s approach was having on the policies of other countries, as European far-right nationalist parties “hold Australia up as an inspiration”.
Aly concludes by urging Australians to avoid “Reaching for a sedative” to escape the problem.
“The human displacement is too deep, the numbers too large,” he said.
In April this year, Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled that the detention centre on Manus Island was illegal.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton responded by saying no one attempting to travel to Australia illegally by boat would settle in Australia.
“Those in the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre found to be refugees are able to resettle in Papua New Guinea. Those found not to be refugees should return to their country of origin,” he said.