Mia Ayliffe-Chung was murdered in Queensland, Australia during the summer where she was working as a migrant laborer. President Donald Trump included her death in a list of ‘underreported terror attacks’ designed to shore up support for his xenophobic Muslim travel ban and further vilify the mainstream media in the eyes of his supporters.
Ayliffe-Chung’s mother, Rosie Ayliffe, has published an op-ed in the Guardian decrying Trump’s exploitation of her daughter’s tragic death for sinister political motives. The title of the piece says it all: “How dare Trump use my daughter’s death to further his brutal agenda.”
Ayliffe-Chung was murdered by Smail Ayad, a French man of Algerian descent, but there are no suggestions that her death was at all related to Islamic terrorism. Rather, she appears to be one of the countless migrant laborers who are victims of systemic abuses.
During the time that Ayliffe-Chung and Ayad worked in sugar cane fields and lived in a nearby hostel, Ayad was never seen praying – hardly a devout Islamic fundamentalist since the Qur’an requires followers to pray five times daily. In fact, no is sure whether Ayad identified as a Muslim in any way.
Before Ayliffe-Chung arrived in Australia, Ayad had been raising eyebrows with his apparent threats to murder the others living at the hostel. The hostel staff and the authorities failed to respond to the threat Ayad posed to his fellow laborers and residents. Ayad became infatuated with Ayliffe-Chung when she arrived, and when he finally snapped he killed her and one of her friends.
Ayliffe states unequivocally that “[Mia’s death was] not committed out of some misguided interpretation of the Qur’an.” Instead, she was a victim of the callous disregard shown by employers and authorities for the human rights of migrant laborers. Not only did the hostel staff and authorities ignore a man who threatened to murder his fellow laborers, the workers were subjected to inhumane, potentially deadly conditions daily.
Ayliffe-Chung could have just as easily been killed by a snake or a piece of heavy machinery. She routinely called her mother in a panic about the dangers she was expected to endure in exchange for meager wages.
Ayliffe writes in the Guardian that Trump’s “callous” misuse of her daughter’s death to keep desperate, hardworking immigrants out of America does touch on a truth – Mia Ayliffe-Chung’s death illustrates what happens when migrants are marginalized. She writes,
“So Trump is right: there is a connection between my daughter and those travellers he wants to strip of their humanity and dignity in airports around the United States. But it’s not the connection he would wish to make. The connection is that my girl’s life was also held in scant regard by a harsh and unforgiving system that doesn’t value basic human rights.”
Trump’s lies dangerously obscure truth beyond recognition. His manipulation of the circumstances of Ayliffe-Chung’s murder is not only devastating to her family, it is being used to shore up an abhorrent agenda that cannot stand on the truth alone. Trump’s bigotry is astounding and it must be stopped before he co-opts more human lives into his false narrative of fear.
Marisa completed her undergraduate degree in 2013 at the University of Wisconsin with a double major in creative writing and media studies. She is an advocate of progressive policies and focuses her interests on gender equality and preventing sexual and domestic violence.