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IMMIGRATION Minister Kevin Andrews has for the first time explicitly said that the Government squeezed the African component of the refugee program because “some groups don’t seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life”.
Mr Andrews has previously skirted this issue, including stating in August that recent cuts in the African intake reflected “an improvement in conditions in some countries” in the region. But questioned yesterday about last week’s fatal bashing in Noble Park of Sudanese refugee Liep Gony, 18, and whether better settlement services were needed, he said:
“I have been concerned that some groups don’t seem to be settling and adjusting into the Australian way of life as quickly as we would hope and therefore it makes sense to put the extra money in to provide extra resources, but also to slow down the rate of intake from countries such as Sudan.”
It yesterday emerged that Mr Gony’s alleged attackers were not African. Two Noble Park men, David Rintoull, 22, and Dylan Sabatino, 19 have been charged with Gony’s murder. A girl, 17, is facing other charges. Victorian detectives will seek the trio’s extradition when they face court in Adelaide today.
Akoch Manheim, of the Lost Boys Association — an advocacy group for Sudanese youth — said the Noble Park incident had “absolutely nothing to with integration”.
Other refugee and ethnic representatives were also critical of the latest singling out of the Sudanese. “It almost borders on vilification of Sudanese refugees,” said activist Jack Smit.
Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia advocate, Voula Messimeri, said all migrants experienced problems in settling and more intensive support was needed, despite a recent $200 million increase over four years announced in this year’s budget.
Mr Andrews confirmed Australia’s 13,000 refugee allocation — which has been stable since at least the mid-1980s — included 30 per cent reserved for those from Africa.
“Last financial year it was 50 per cent of the refugee and humanitarian program and the two previous years it was 70 per cent,” he said.
Senior Constable James Waterson, a multicultural liaison officer with Victoria Police, who works closely with Sudanese and other minorities, said labelling a group of people as a gang was not always the reality.
He said while the vast majority of Sudanese who settled in Australia were not used to cars, email and other luxuries, “you get them congregating in public areas just as they do back there, which is how they’ve grown up for the last 15 to 20 years”.
“Just because these social groups are hanging around railway stations doesn’t mean that they’re a gang, they’re up to no good or that they’re carrying weapons.”
He said cultural training within the police force and the community could make a big difference.
(Posted on October 2, 2007)