Australia’s asylum seeker policies criticised again in New York Times

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Source: AAP

'Even women raped and impregnated on Nauru have been treated as if they are security threats,' columnist Roger Cohen wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.

The New York Times has run a full-length op-ed in its Monday edition which labels Australia’s offshore refugee detention policy as cruel and dehumanising.

Regular columnist Roger Cohen wrote that Australia’s treatment of refugees “follows textbook rules for the administering of cruelty”.

Mr Cohen, in Australia for the Sydney Writers’ Festival, was particularly critical of Peter Dutton’s recent comments that large numbers of refugees were illiterate and would take Australian jobs.

“A statement that prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call Dutton ‘outstanding', no less,” Mr Cohen wrote.

In the 800 word piece, Mr Cohen linked the current policies to the White Australia policy, writing that “politicians like Dutton are playing scurrilously on similar fears".

"Even women raped and impregnated on Nauru have been treated as if they are security threats," he wrote, referring to a number of recent controversies over the treatment of pregnant women in detention. 

It’s not the first time the newspaper has hit out against Australia’s offshore detention policy. In September last year the paper ran an editorial that said then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s policies were “inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war".

“By any ethical standard, the policy engages Australian responsibility for cruelty,” Mr Cohen wrote yesterday. “Scrap a policy that shames a nation with its pointless cruelty.”

In a brief change of tone, Mr Cohen did note as “exceptional” the government’s commitment to accept and additional 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq on top of its usual 13,750 humanitarian cap. 

Members of the government say this extra intake is only possible because of the border protection policies currently in place.

The Prime Minister argues that offshore processing is necessary as a deterrent to refugees risking their lives to come to Australia by boat, a position supported by the opposition Labor Party. 

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