Opinion: Dear America, stop saying sorry to Australia for Trump

  • 03/02/2017
Australia refugee camps Nauru Manus
"If you want to apologise to anyone let it be the 1250 refugees in detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru." (Getty file)

By Angela Cuming

OPINION: Dear America,

Please stop saying sorry to Australia for the way President Trump spoke to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Your hearts are in the right place, I get that. But if you want to apologise to anyone let it be the 1250 refugees Australia has left to rot indefinitely in detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru.

Men, women, and children. Refugees who came to Australia to seek asylum, to save their lives. People who have been locked away from the eyes of the world, left at the mercy of private security guards.

Many of the refugees came from Iran and Iraq, from Sri Lanka and Pakistan and Bangladesh.

They can't go home. The vast majority of them have already been confirmed to have valid refugee status, yet Australia won't let them in. Even though the country is legally, not to mention morally, obliged to protect them.

So you will forgive me for rolling my eyes when I see Twitter abuzz with Americans saying sorry to Aussies for what mean old Mr Trump did or didn't say on one 25-minute phone call.

Maybe I am angry because I am still waiting for a sorry for all the reports of child abuse, self-harm and neglect of the asylums seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

Or maybe America can apologise to the family of Faysal Ishak Ahmed, a Sudanese refugee held on Manus Island who died following "a fall and seizure" inside the Australian-run detention centre.

Mr Ahmed had been unwell for several months before he collapsed and suffered head injuries inside the detention centre. His fellow detainees had repeatedly asked that he be given appropriate medical care. Refugee advocates say those pleas were ignored.

How about sorry to the Somalian woman who was raped on Nauru and whose termination of the resulting pregnancy was refused by Australian authorities?

That would go over nicer than an apology to the government which played politics with her life.

Malcolm Turnbull knows all of this. No doubt he wishes the whole inconvenience of refugees turning to Australia for help would go away - in Australia there are sadly no votes to be had in treating asylum seekers with dignity and respect.

And make no mistake, Australia doesn't want to send those refugees to America out of the goodness of its own heart.

They should be brought to Australia, they should be granted the asylum they are legally - and morally - entitled to. But Mr Turnbull seems to view that option as political suicide and has taken the next best option and that is to send them to the other side of the world, hopefully to never be seen or heard from again.

These two men, Turnbull and Trump, are playing a deadly game of politics with these peoples' lives.

With children's lives.

So, Americans, if you want to apologise to anyone, apologise to the inmates of Australia's refugee detention centres. They are the real victims of this whole sorry mess.

Angela Cuming is an Australian-born journalist and writer who lives in Hamilton.