Costello Slams Detaining Asylum Seekers as Torture
24 May 2016 at 9:38 am
World Vision Australia’s CEO, Tim Costello, has condemned the detaining of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru as “psychological torture,” sparking mixed reactions from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Speaking on Sky News on Sunday, Costello said: “There’s no question that the psychological torture of not being able to actually resettle, and you can’t go back home, is torture.”
Costello claimed the case of a 21-year-old Somalian woman who set herself on fire on Nauru showed how desperate the federal government’s refugee policy was making people.
“World Vision works in Somalia and 98 per cent of women suffer female genital mutilation. Somalia is a terrifying place,” Costello said.
“You would flee that, I would flee that.”
Following Costello’s comments Shorten conceded the World Vision CEO “had a point” and accused the government of delays in resettlement.
“In terms of what Tim Costello is talking about in the cost and the pain and the suffering of indefinite detention, I think he has a point,” Shorten said
“The truth of the matter [is] this government has let delays blow out. They have not been transparent in terms of the treatment of people in our care. I sympathise with what Tim Costello is saying.
“The best answer is to defeat the people smugglers and make sure that the people in our care, directly or indirectly, get proper resettlement.”
However Turnbull rejected Costello’s comments.
“I don’t accept what Tim Costello says there,” Turnbull said.
“It is absolutely critical that we maintain a secure border protection policy and that is why it is absolutely critical that people who seek to come to Australia through the services of people smugglers are not able to settle in Australia.”
The comments came a week after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton made inflammatory remarks that many refugees were “illiterate” and would take Australian jobs.
Turnbull backed Dutton, calling him an “outstanding immigration minister”.
Costello said that Dutton’s comments reflected the views of a number of Australians, which is why they were made.
“Historically I think we’ve been stuck, paralysed in a toxic refugee, boat people debate,” Costello said.
“If you can’t have empathy for people who are arriving on your shores, in an irregular way, it’s no wonder we smash our heads.
“The toxic debate has leeched out something of the Australian soul.”