Australian Immigration Minister under fire for his comments on African
By D. M. Koch
[Gurtong News - Australia]
The Refugee Council of Australia has today expressed outrage and dismay on what they deemed unacceptable comments by the Australian Minister for Immigration, Honorable Kevin Andrews. Hon. Andrews has widely been quoted in the media as attributing "failure of African refugees to integrate into Australian society" to the reason why there has been a drastically cut down on intake of refugees from African continent.
It is worthy of taking note that the current Australian Immigration policy has shifted much attention to South East Asia and in particular to the Burmese (Myanmar) refugees who are fleeing their repressive,
dictatorial Junta led by General Than Shwe; an illegitimate regime that seized power following democratic elections in 1990 and which refused to hand it over to a democratically elected leader, Madam Aung Sung Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for years. The military regime which defied World community's protest has been in spotlights in recent days following the unprecedented demonstrations by Budhist Monks who have since been dealt with harshly by the regime's security forces.
The Minister's comments carried on Melbourne radio Station 3AW seem to have been targeted at the Sudanese community in particular, causing outrage and anger amongst advocates of human rights and refugee resettlement program. The Chief Executive Officer of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), Mr. Paul Power, led the spirited charge against the
Minister and pointed out that the Minister's attempt to link the person's race to the rights of resettling that person to Australia was outrageous. His particular concern was on the possible damage the
Minister's comments could make to the standing of the Sudanese community in Australia. Below are what Mr. Paul Power's full comments in response:
"Mr Andrews has linked ability to settle in Australia to a person's race, rather than his or her individual circumstances. Such a sweeping
generalisation about an entire racial or national group is unjustifiable - and far more dangerous than the Minister realises."
"Within every ethnic and cultural group represented in the Australian people, there are people who thrive and others who struggle to overcome the barriers they face.
"It is inevitable that people who have survived persecution, war and great trauma will experience difficulties in adjusting to life in a new country. This has been the case throughout the 60 years of Australian post-war immigration.
"But, given the barriers people face, the reality is far more positive than the Australian public is often led to believe.
"Mr Andrews' comments detract from the efforts and achievements of the many Sudanese born people who have put past traumas behind them and are now working, studying and making valuable contributions to Australian life."
Mr Power said the Minister was undermining the Government's own program, raising questions about the basis of the decision on the 2007-08 refugee and humanitarian intake.
"It is quite valid for the Government to decide to shift its refugee intake to include more people from very needy circumstances in parts of
Asia and the Middle East," Mr Power said. "That is a judgment a government is entitled to make, having reviewed current global needs.
"But, through his comments today, the Minister has raised questions about whether responding to humanitarian need remains the core objective of the Government's refugee program."
So far no comments have emerged from the beleaguered Sudanese community and their leaders. Lack of proper self-organisation, incompetence on the part of some community leaders plus some complex issues that seem to hinder pro-activity in the community, all combined to make the community increasingly vulnerable and defenceless in the face of the marauding media.
Meanwhile the same Refugee Council of Australia, which represent
Non-Government Organisations and individuals working with refugees, is
in another front, battling a malicious Email message that has been circulated and which continues to be circulated nationally, which alleges that a single refugee person was earning Australian Dollars (AUD) $1458 per month, more than an average Australian Pensioner. The authors of this inciting message noted the Refugee Agency, aim to incite ill feelings and hatred toward refugees and in the process fuel racism.
The Agency therefore is urging Australian people to ignore the message
as it carries nothing substantive in as far as facts surrounding social security benefits are concerned. In an attempt to correct the damaging message, the Agency went a step further by releasing factual records of how payments are made to individuals in the Australian social security benefits system. First and foremost, permanent residents of Australia, whether refugee or otherwise, are treated equally with Australian citizens in the system. For example, a single person seeking new start allowance is paid $ 424.38 per fortnight, regardless of whether someone is a refugee or citizen. A pensioner is paid $ 525.10 per fortnight, again regardless of whether the person is originally a refugee or not.
Based on this statistic, a pensioner is therefore paid more than a $
100.00 per fortnight, more than the ordinary Centrelink benefiteer, contrary to the claims made in the malicious email.
In this particular instance, the Federal Minister of families and community Services is reported to has issued a statement in response; so did the Department of Immigration, Citizenship and Integration. To see their comments, please visit
www.facs.gov.au/internet/minister3.nsf/print/pension email scam17aug07.htm.