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Oct 8, 2007

Kevin Andrews and Africans: in his own words

We know he’s no racist, we have his own word on that, but what does Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews really think about African refugees? Crikey intern Alice Gage investigates.


We know he’s no racist, we have his own word on that, but what does Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews really think about African refugees?

According to media releases on his own website, the problem with Africans is:

  • They establish race based gangs.
  • There have been reports of altercations between African groups in nightclubs and at community functions.
  • There have been disagreements amongst prominent African community organisations over accusations that some are receiving favoured treatment in accessing community services
  • Tensions have arisen between some African families, involving conflict and assault.
  • Concern among some community leaders as to the increase in crime among African youth.
  • Reports of a developing trend of young African males congregating in parks at night, often to consume alcohol.

As the minister says*:

“If you take the overall picture, this is a group of people that are presenting many more unique challenges than we’ve had in the past. I’m not the only one saying it I’m reporting what a wide variety of sources are saying.”

But we’re on their side. Really:

“This notion that somehow we’re seeking to demonise people from particular countries is, is just wrong… But, let’s look at the group [of Sudanese migrants] in particular. We know that there is a large number of people who are young, that is in their teens and in their early 20’s, often young men. We know that they have on average, low levels of education and lower levels of education than almost any other group of refugees that have come to Australia… Modern Australia, modern urban Australia largely, is vastly different from the conditions that people have come from in many of the countries, particularly in the Horn of Africa.”

Not that Africans are in any way unique:

“But so far the evidence that I have, in relation to those who have come from [other locations like Iraq and Burma is] showing the same challenges that we’ve got [with migrants from the Sudan].”

It’s just that they have more trouble fitting in:

“After the end of the Second World War, many of the people who came to Australia as refugees came as refugees from Europe, who came from largely the same Western liberal democratic culture as we share in Australia. They may have spoken different languages, eaten different foods, etcetera, but largely there was a sharing of culture in terms of the people who came to Australia. More recently we’ve had people from parts of Asia, for example, in which there has been some similarities, again, in terms of the culture. Now this is not to denigrate or to suggest that there is something wrong with particular cultures, it’s just being realistic enough to say that if we’ve got some challenges then we ought to be clear-headed enough and we ought to be sensible enough to say let’s look at those challenges and let’s work in a way with the people concerned to ensure that we can meet their aspirations, meet the aspirations of Australians in general.”

And there’s no shortage of evidence for that:

“Well we have evidence, and as I said, we have an inter-departmental committee made up of very senior people from a range of Government, Federal Government departments spending time looking at this over a period of time, and they came to that conclusion. We have other evidence that’s provided to me. When I go out and talk to various groups I get feedback about this all the time. We know, as I said, about their education levels and our need to lift those education levels and to provide them with English language, and we know in relation to things like employment statistics. So, there’s a range of evidence in relation to the matter, I don’t think anybody really denies that this is a challenge. It’s really a matter of how we respond to that challenge and putting our head in the sand and pretending it’s not there is not going to help the people concerned and it’s not going to help Australia.”

It’s for their own good really:

“Well I’m concerned that we don’t create problems down the track for this group of people and for Australian society generally and that’s why we’ve taken a two-pronged approach to it. On one hand putting a lot of additional resources over the next few years into further, better enhanced settlement services, but at the same time saying let’s just slow down the programme at the moment.

And of course we can look at again later. After the election perhaps:

“We, we set this programme from year to year, so at the moment we’ve set the programme at 30 per cent for this year. Of course this is reviewed again in another 10-11 months time for the next financial year.”

*Speech extracts taken from doorstops conducted by Immigration Minister Andrews on 3 & 4 October, 2007.


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