One of the world’s most respected newspapers has slammed the Abbott government’s “unconscionable” border protection policies for the second time in a year.
As the world watches a humanitarian disaster unfold in Europe, the New York Times urged European policymakers not to look at Australia’s “ruthlessly effective effort to stop boats” as an option.
The Times wrote that Mr Abbott’s policies “have been inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war”.
The editorial, published on Thursday, tackled the policy of using the Navy to turn back asylum seeker vessels, the conditions on Manus Island and allegations the Australian government paid people smugglers tens of thousands of dollars to reverse course.
“The Nauru centre [was described by a Senate committee] as a purgatory where children are sexually abused, guards give detainees marijuana in exchange for sex and some asylum seekers are so desperate that they stitch their lips shut in an act of protest.
“Instead of stopping the abuses, the Australian government has sought to hide them from the world.”
As the European migrant crisis dominates world headlines, with most recently Budapest’s main train station being overrun by refugees, Times writers fear diplomats from the region are looking to Mr Abbott’s example.
“European officials have traveled to Australia on fact-finding missions recently,” it said. “Mr Abbott, who argues that aggressively intercepting the boats saves lives, has urged European governments to follow his model, and some European leaders seem so inclined.
“Some European officials may be tempted to adopt the hard-line approach Australia has used to stem a similar tide of migrants.
“That would be unconscionable.”
The secrecy surrounding the happenings on the Nauruan and Manus Island detention centres were also a cause for NYT.
“Last year, Nauru raised the fee it charges for journalists’ visas from $200 to roughly $8000; applicants who are turned down are not given refunds,” it said.
“The Border Force Act, which took effect July 1, makes it a crime punishable by a two-year prison sentence for employees at detention camps to discuss the conditions there publicly.”
The first chapter
In July 2014, a similarly strong editorial from the Times said the Abbott government was “failing in its obligation under international accords to protect refugees fleeing persecution”.
“Australia is pursuing draconian measures to deter people without visas from entering the country by boat,” it wrote in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders, the scheme that launched the policy of military boats turning back asylum seeker vessels.
For its latest piece on the Australian asylum seeker approach, the NYT quoted a migration expert to further illustrate the Abbott government’s methods.
“The Australian model may seem attractive to politicians,” said Leonard Doyle, a spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration.
“Politicians love fences, but what fences do is create a market for smugglers and major humanitarian problems.”
More than 300,000 migrants have arrived in Europe this year alone – the biggest movement of people since World War II.
Many of those are fleeing war and persecution in Africa.
The escalating crisis has divided the 28-member Eurozone bloc ahead of emergency talks on September 14.
Western European leaders have called for more efforts to help the new arrivals while countries on its eastern borders say they are struggling to cope.
– with ABC