Q&A: Syrian refugees take aim at Trump ‘basket’ ban

Omar and Saad Al-Kassab question Trump's indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

Omar and Saad Al-Kassab question Trump's indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. Photo: ABC

It’s a story that would not be possible in the US under Donald Trump’s ban on refugees from Muslim countries.

After escaping war-torn Syria, brothers Omar and Saad Al-Kassab are making a life for themselves in Australia.

So well are they doing that Saad was recently named dux of his school and will study medicine, while Omar is studying business.

In Q&A‘s return on Monday night, the brothers took the opportunity to ask US policy analyst and Trump supporter Helen Andrews why innocent refugees are being prevented from even entering the United States as part of the new administration’s travel ban.


Policy analyst and Trump supporter Helen Andrews defended the travel ban. Photo: ABC

Currently, citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries are banned from entering the US for 90 days, while Syrians are indefinitely outlawed.

“During the Arab Spring, when marching for freedom and democracy I was shot and tortured by the Syrian regime and forced to flee with family,” Omar began.

“Australia has kindly given us a new life, and after only two years of learning English, my brother has recently made the news when graduating as a dux of his school and currently studying to be a doctor. I am also halfway through my business degree.

“Why would someone ban people like us from being citizens of this country?”

Ms Andrews was put on the back foot and forgot the indefinite ban placed by the US on Omar and Saad’s birthplace.

“At this point, it is extremely inaccurate to talk about a ban on anything,” she said.

“The Trump administration wants to put in place a new system of vetting for its refugee population and it will take 90 days to put that together. We are only talking about a suspension. No one is keeping anybody out permanently.”

The Al-Kassab family fled the Syrian civil war in 2013 and arrived in Australia in June 2014.

They couldn’t speak a word of English three years ago – and began learning the language by watching Question Time in Parliament.

Watch Omar and Saad’s Q&A segment below:

Saad has since earned an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) of 96.65, making him the top student of his year at the Catholic Regional College Sydenham, in Melbourne’s north-west.

He followed his brother and asked Ms Andrews: “Don’t you feel guilty to put us with the bad guys in the same basket?”

“We struggled for the same values as the American and Australian values, like we actually also learnt English by watching the Australian Parliament because we liked democracy and freedom in this country and the US.

“So when we are put in the same basket with the bad guys it is so hurtful for us.”


Premier Daniel Andrews told Helen Andrews: “What doesn’t make sense is you.” Photo: ABC

Ms Andrews avoided the question and responded by saying President Trump and the US are doing the best they can to ensure security.

“You know, I think Donald Trump and all Americans want to help everyone in Syria, as much as they can, to the greatest extent that America can,” she said.

“But it’s a simple fact that a dollar goes further helping refugees closer to the Middle East.

“You can help 12 people in the Middle East for the price of resettling one person in the United States. It really doesn’t make sense if you’re a humanitarian to concentrate on a few people winning the lottery, when you could help 11 more people closer to the site.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews stood up for the young brothers, questioning Ms Andrews’ beliefs and her stance on refugees.

“With the greatest of respect, what doesn’t make sense is you,” Mr Andrews said.

“As the centre of freedom and liberty and democracy in our world, the United States, that you would not judge people by their character, by their conduct, by abilities, by their commitment.

“You would instead judge them by the God they pray to, how they pray, where they were born, where their parents were born.

“Refugees given an opportunity, a second chance, to build a new life and they repay us in spades and we are very proud of you and we are so pleased to have you here.”

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