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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton hits back at New York Times over asylum seeker editorial

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has hit back at a New York Times editorial that criticised Australia's treatment of asylum seekers, insisting the government's policies were lawful, safe and worked. 

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In an editorial, the influential newspaper attacks the Australian Government's asylum seeker policies as 'inhumane'.

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, Mr Dutton intimated The New York Times was "lacking in credibility" after it launched a blistering attack on the Abbott government, suggesting its asylum seeker policies were "unconscionable".

The editorial, published on Thursday, warned Australia's reputation was suffering in the eyes of international observers under the government's hardline efforts to "stop the boats".

It described Prime Minister Tony Abbott's policies as "inhumane, of dubious legality and strikingly at odds with the country's tradition of welcoming people fleeing persecution and war".

"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 editorial read.


But on Friday Mr Dutton fired back: "Our policies are lawful. They are safe. And they work.

"They save lives. They reduce the risks run by our border protection personnel. And they have stopped the evil people smuggling trade to Australia," Mr Dutton's statement read.

"Appropriate inquiry and research of the facts about these policies would show that the often vague, untested and unsubstantiated claims by opponents of these policies are lacking in credibility."

One day after images of a Syrian boy's body lying on a Turkish beach caused an international outpouring of grief, Mr Dutton drew on Australia's collective memory of an asylum seeker boat smashing into the cliff of Christmas Island, killing 50 people. 

"What Australians and the world did not see were the hundreds of others who were dying while trying to reach Australia in unseaworthy boats. The Australian government is aware of at least 1,200 deaths. Many more may have drowned," he said.

Earlier on Friday, Mr Abbott said the "very sad" photographs of the Syrian child, Alyon Kurdi, demonstrated the need for tough asylum seekers policies. 

"If you want to stop the deaths, if you want to stop the drownings, you have got to stop the boats. 

"Thankfully, we have stopped that in Australia because we have stopped the illegal boats," he said.