Yesterday The New York Times dedicated its editorial to Australia — and not in a good way:

“Prime Minister Tony Abbott has overseen a ruthlessly effective effort to stop boats packed with migrants, many of them refugees, from reaching Australia’s shores. His policies have been inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country’s tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war.”

Today, Abbott has demonstrated again just how little he cares or understands about the global refugee problem. Speaking on ABC radio about the current influx of Syrian asylum seekers to Europe, he said:

“We saw yesterday on our screens, a very sad and poignant image of children tragically, tragically dead at sea in illegal immigration … Thankfully, we’ve stopped that in Australia … If you want to keep people safe, you’ve got to stop illegal migration and that’s what we’ve done.”

The photo of little Aylan Kurdi’s body washed up at one of Turkey’s most popular holiday resorts was circulated widely yesterday, and Aylan’s father has now spoken of his plans to take the bodies of his wife and two sons back to their hometown of Kobani on the Syrian border, where Islamic State has been engaged in violent battle for the past year.

Tony Abbott has sought huge political mileage from the dangers of what he calls “the Daesh death cult”, but if a family like the Kurdis sought asylum here, what would Australia do? We would turn back their boat, send them back to Syria — to keep them “safe”.

“The world’s war zones are all but certain to continue to churn out an extraordinary number of refugees and economic migrants in the years ahead,” the NYT concluded.

“Those people understandably will head to the most prosperous nations, hoping to rebuild their lives. It is inexcusable that some find themselves today in situations that are more hopeless and degrading than the ones that prompted them to flee.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Peter Fray

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