Politics

This Incredibly Racist Cartoon In The Daily Telegraph Has Been Condemned Online

The Daily Telegraph's racist cartoon

A comic drawn by The Daily Telegraph cartoonist Warren Brown has drawn significant criticism online for its racist depiction of critically ill asylum seekers.

The comic depicts a predatory Arab refugee chasing a distressed medical practitioner, a white woman. Standing by is Independent MP Dr Kerryn Phelps AM, who is drawn impassively reading the Medivac bill while lightly chastising the refugee to refrain “until [she has gotten] the bill passed”.

The bill in question concerns medical treatment for asylum seekers in offshore detention. It is intended to give the doctors attending critically ill people the power to decide whether their patients are transferred to Australia for treatment.

Though it passed the Senate in December with Labor support, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has voiced opposition to the bill, which he considers to be a threat to national security.

In an apparent response to such concerns, Labor is attempting to make further changes to the bill. These amendments include widening the grounds upon which politicians can refuse a transfer, pushing back the Immigration Minister’s deadline to respond to a transfer request, and restricting the bill to people who are already in offshore detention, excluding new arrivals.

However, Morrison has indicated that no amount of compromise will cause him to support it.

“There is no form of this bill that is acceptable,” he said last week via The Sydney Morning Herald. “We cannot have Australia’s borders determined by panels of medical professionals.”

The racist Daily Telegraph cartoon is an apparent reference to an article the newspaper published yesterday. In it, The Daily Telegraph reported that an asylum seeker who had been the subject of a medical transfer allegedly “groped” two nurses’ bottoms, then threatened to assault them.

Sexual assault is a serious matter, and should be handled with all due gravity and care. However, this cartoon combines the deplorable alleged behaviour of one man with racist tropes to justify denying medical help to an entire cohort of people.

Australian poet Omar Sakr blasted the publication on Twitter. “It’s the Daily Telegraph who chose to publish this supremely racist, awful image using old anti-Arab tropes. There’s no excuse for this. It’s been done too many times. They know full well what it means.”

Many others have also condemned the cartoon.

As of October last year, 500 people had been transferred to Australia from offshore detention for medical treatment. Citing a health crisis, the UN has called for Australia to shut down its offshore detention centres. The UNHCR found many asylum seekers were suffering “acute” untreated health problems, both physical and mental. Twelve have died since 2014.

“I’m determined for us to find a pathway through, there are lives at stake here,” said Dr Phelps via SBS News.