Immigrant Leaders Call For Talks After Violence In Australian City

Immigrant Leaders Call for Talks After Violence in Australian City

Phil Mercer
05 October 2010

Police in South Australia are blaming tensions within the African immigrant community for a wild brawl in Adelaide. Immigrant leaders are calling for efforts to reduce disputes and violence.

The head of South Australia's Sudanese community thinks the victims of the violence and the perpetrators are Sudanese. Mabok Deng Mabok talked with the police Tuesday and has called for dialogue with other African associations across Australia.

African migrants and refugees from around Australia gathered in Adelaide for the annual Miss Africa beauty pageant before fighting broke out around midnight Sunday.

Four young men were stabbed in a brawl that involved about 100 men. One of the injured has had surgery and on Tuesday was still hospitalized in serious condition.

Of the four men arrested, two live in Western Australia, while a third comes from Victoria.

Police in South Australia think the violence was caused by a dispute between African groups, which had been festering in the lead up the pageant. The exact reasons remain unclear and the investigation continues.

Chief Inspector John Gerlach says that many of the men were armed. “Certainly (with) knives, because most of the injuries were stab wounds, but there was like tire levers, clubs, makeshift batons,” he explaines, “I think it was described to me that one even had a, like a post of a bed, you know? So they were grabbing any sort of weapons they could.”

Community leaders have promised urgent action to resolve the problems that led to the violence.

About 500,000 Africans live in Australia, where their numbers have increased steadily over the past five years.

Australia has resettled refugees from conflicts in Burundi, Congo, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Sudan.

Conservative politicians accuse young Sudanese men of perpetrating violent crime in Australia. But refugee advocates say that view exaggerates a small number of isolated incidents.

A recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission said that African immigrants are discriminated against in employment, housing, education and the justice system.

The survey documents the distress and alienation many African immigrants experience, although it notes that many have adapted well to new lives in Australia.