Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, removes his protective face mask after arriving for a signing ceremony with Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s prime minister at Suga’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan November 17, 2020. Kiyoshi Ota/Pool via REUTERS
SYDNEY (Reuters) – A woman approached Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison in tears on Tuesday after he held a news conference in Queensland, as she made an emotional plea for him to help her family in Cameroon and asylum-seekers from Africa.
The incident was caught on camera after Morrison had just finished a news conference in the city of Rockhampton, where he fielded questions about his travel ban on Australian citizens returning from COVID-ravaged India.
Morrison, whose government has a hardline immigration policy, listened to the woman and told her that government officials would help her as he crouched down and held her hands, before helping her back to her feet. [nL1N2MR052]
“I’ve lost half of all my family. I’ve got no family left if you don’t help me. Everybody will die. Help me, help me,” she pleaded.
Cameroon’s two western Anglophone regions have been gripped by fighting since 2017 as English-speaking rebels try to break away from the predominantly Francophone government.
More than 3,500 people have died and 700,000 have been displaced in the violence with both sides accused of committing atrocities.
The woman later told Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) she had made the public display to ask Morrison to help desperate people seeking asylum from Cameroon.
“There are people seeking asylum and Australia must try to help them escape,” the woman told the broadcaster, identifying herself only as Lillian.
Under Canberra’s immigration policy, asylum-seekers who reach Australia are sent to Australian-run detention camps offshore.
Reporting by James Redmayne and Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa