A Woman's Letter About Her Surgeon Sends a Powerful Message About the Refugee Crisis

November 4th 2016

Lucy Tiven

An Australian woman's heartfelt letter to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is spreading an important message about the refugee crisis.

Ali France, the letter's author, received a life-changing operation from Dr. Munjed Al Muderis, an Iraqi refugee, after she lost one of her legs in a 2011 car accident.

She was moved to share her story with the PM on Monday, BuzzFeed reported.

This follows Turnbull's Sunday announcement of plans to introduce legislation to parliament that would bar adult asylum seekers — including refugees — who arrive by boat from getting Australian visas, according to the Guardian. The plan will also be backdated to "apply to any adult who has been sent to detention centres on Nauru or Manus Island since 19 July 2013," the Guardian reports.


"Dr. Al Muderis came to Australia by boat, as a refugee from Iraq," France wrote in her letter.

“Under your new policy, he would never have made it to Australia," she asserted. "He has made a huge contribution to our country."

Turnbull framed the law as a crackdown on people smugglers, calling them "the worst criminals imaginable."

“They have a multibillion-dollar business," he said. "It is a battle of will. We have to be very determined to say no to their criminal plans."

Others, including former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have called the plan an attempt to pander to the far right.

“I have kept silent on domestic policy debates for the past three years," he wrote in an op-ed. "But this one sinks to new lows. It is pure politics designed to appease the xenophobes. It is without any policy merit in dealing with the real policy challenges all countries face today in what is now a global refugees crisis"

Dr. Muderis fled Iraq in 1999 after he refused a military order to mutilate army deserters, a crime punishable by death under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

France claims she would have lost the ability to walk without the operation, which no other surgeon in her country was able to perform.

"I owe my health, my ability to walk and have a decent quality of life with my children to Dr. Al Muderis," she says in the letter. "As do many other Australians."

Debates over the refugee crisis are not unique to Australia.

In the United States immigration and the refugee crisis are a major election topic. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump proposed "extreme vetting" of immigrants who come from countries where terrorism is present, and at one point he called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. (His overall plan remains murky, according to the Washington Post.)

Far-right political parties touting anti-immigration policies are also on the rise across Europe. From the Huffington Post:

"Playing on ethno-nationalist sentiment, and using the refugee crisis to capitalize on fears over Islamism, national security and loss of government benefits, many of these long-established parties have risen in the polls in countries across Europe last year. Casting themselves as defenders of the nation against immigration — as well as opposing trade policies and the EU — has been a successful strategy."

The liberation of Mosul may result in even greater influxes of Iraqi refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe, Time reports.