When the Australian government announced that it will institute a ban for life on asylum seekers arriving by boat, the backlash was swift and sound. A United Nations official publicly condemned Australia for the proposed policy. Columnists and other members of the media came out strongly against it. And one Ali France, an Australian mom who lost her leg five years ago, wrote a moving letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cautioning him about the real-life consequences of such anti-refugee policies.
France's letter was about acclaimed surgeon Dr. Munjed Al Muderis who operated on her. Al Muderis was a surgeon in Iraq who fled his country during Saddam Hussein's regime. He traveled to Australia by boat and later became a one of the world's leading surgeons specializing in osseointegration, a procedure that involves the insertion of an implant to make prosthetic limbs feel more natural and comfortable. According to France's letter, Al Muderis is the only doctor in the country who can perform the surgery.
"I am writing to protest your latest announcement regarding genuine refugees and their travel to and resettlement in Australia," France wrote. "I lost my leg five years ago. I was destined to spend my life in a wheelchair until I met Dr Munjed Al Muderis. Dr Al Muderis came to Australia by boat, as a refugee from Iraq. I am sure you know his story. He is the only surgeon in Australia who can perform life changing osseointegration surgery."
Al Muderis' life and work has been extensively documented in Australia. In a profile of the doctor by Greg Callaghan at the Sydney Morning Herald, the impact of his work is described as such:
One young woman, Miranda Cashin, who was born without a tibia in her right leg, is tearfully describing how the operation has radically changed her life. After years of struggling with a socket prosthesis, and falling back on crutches and a wheelchair to get about painlessly, Miranda now goes on five-kilometre walks.
The recognition and gratitude for Al Muderis' work was also evident in France's letter.
"I owe my health, my ability to walk and have a decent quality of life with my children to Dr Al Muderis. As do many Australians. Under your new policy," France told Turnbull, "he would have never made it to Australia. He has made a huge contribution to our country. I urge you to reconsider your position on this issue and consider the welfare and happiness of Australians like me."