UN Contradicts Andrews Over Sudanese

UN contradicts Andrews over Sudanese

The Sydney Morning Herald
October 2, 2007 – 1:54PM

The United Nations has contradicted Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews' argument that Sudanese refugees are having trouble adapting to Australian life.

Mr Andrews said Sudanese refugees appeared to have “greater challenges” than other migrants who had come to Australia, as he defended the government's decision to slash the intake of African refugees.

Despite the Darfur crisis in Sudan, the Australian government has allocated just 30 per cent of refugee places to Africans this year, down from 70 per cent in 2004-05.

“We were concerned about the rate of settlement of some communities in Australia,” Mr Andrews told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

Many Sudanese had lived through a decade of conflict and had lived in refugee camps for long periods, he said.

“Their level of education, on average, is about grade three levels compared to three or four years' more education for most other refugees that have come to Australia,” he said.

“We don't do them any service if we bring them to Australia and we're not able to help them properly settle in this country.”

The minister's comments come a week after the fatal bashing of Sudanese refugee Liep Gony, 18, near a Melbourne train station.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said refugees should be accepted based on their need for protection, not their ability to integrate.

“UNHCR is not aware of any empirical evidence that suggests there are integration difficulties associated with Sudanese compared with any other comparatively newly arrived group of refugees,” a UNHCR spokeswoman told AAP.

“Indeed, we note previous comments by the Victorian police … that Sudanese people are under-represented in crime statistics.

“UNHCR hopes that the doors will remain open to refugees from any part of the world on the basis of their need for protection, not on the basis of race, religion, nationality or perceptions about their ability to integrate.”

Marion Le, from the Independent Council for Refugee Advocacy, challenged Mr Andrews to provide hard evidence of Sudanese failing to adapt to life in Australia.

“It's rather mean-spirited to say we're going to switch (away from Africans) because they haven't done as well as we hope,” Ms Le said.

About 13,000 refugees are expected to settle in Australia this year.

Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria chairman Phong Nguyen said the refugee program should be based on need, and the greatest need was in Africa, where millions were stuck in refugee camps.

Refugee Council chief executive Paul Power said Mr Andrews had linked ability to settle in Australia to a person's race rather than their circumstances.

Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett said Mr Andrews was pandering to a Hansonite view of African refugees and appeared happy to smear them to try to snare votes.

Labor argued some migrants from all backgrounds had trouble integrating into Australian life – not just Africans.

Opposition immigration spokesman Tony Burke said refugees and humanitarian entrants needed better support to help them settle into Australia, particularly through improved English training and job opportunities.

Mr Burke's comments came as it emerged up to 18 Sudanese were thought to be living in a two-bedroom house in suburban Canberra.

The case, revealed by Ms Le, followed another case in Canberra in which seven African people, including children and a pregnant woman, were sharing a one-bedroom flat.