Paige West and JC Salyer (separate headshots placed side by side)
From left: Paige West and J.C. Salyer

In December 2020, Pacific Islander journal The Contemporary Pacific featured a dialogue article in its 32nd volume written by anthropology professors J.C. Salyer and Paige West. The essays, published under the joint title "'It Is Not Because They Are Bad People': Australia’s Refugee Resettlement in Papua New Guinea and Nauru," study the underlying human rights crisis created by Australia's current attitudes toward immigration. 

The article takes its name from an exchange between former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and President Donald Trump, where Turnbull justifies his detainment policies by saying that he does not think of the refugees as "bad people." 

Salyer and West challenge the use of this language to condone using strict detainment policies in facilities like Nauru and Manus Island. Rather than a simple protective measure, the researchers provide evidence of the many environmental and racial factors that propagate this discourse — factors that put refugees in difficult, unfair positions as "outsiders."