Since the end of the White Australia Policy, there has been bipartisan support for a non-discriminatory immigration policy. But with the Howard government so intent on sucking up to sectarian groups, it was only a matter of time before someone discovered evidence of it trying to co-opt Fred Nile’s agenda before the last election in much the same way as it did Pauline Hanson’s before the 2001 poll.

Richard Kerbaj reported in The Weekend Australian of a proposal by former Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews to increase Christian migration from the Middle East.

The Howard government was at the forefront of extending humanitarian support for African (mostly Christian) refugees. But in response to the senseless murder of 18-year-old Sudanese man Liep Gony, Kevin Andrews declared Africans were just not integrating and committing too much crime.

But if The Oz report is correct, Muslims working in the immigration sections of some Australian embassies are behaving corruptly, giving Muslim applicants special treatment. Andrews was lobbied by the Australian Christian Lobby about discrimination against Christians in Iraq. The Oz doesn’t mention whether the ACL representatives’ claims alleging nasty pro-Muslim conspirators were responsible for reducing the number of refugee places awarded to Iraqi Christians.

DIAC-heads had already investigated and dismissed these allegations, but Andrews still wrote to Howard suggesting $200 million of taxpayers’ funds be used to send Aussies to our overseas posts to make sure discrimination against Christian applicants is replaced by discrimination against Muslim ones. Or something like that.

There’s no doubt Iraqi Christians face a perilous situation in Iraq. Many are considered too close to Saddam’s aggressively secular regime. Chaldean Christians are particularly vulnerable given Saddam’s number 2, Tariq Aziz, was Chaldean Catholic. It hasn’t helped that Baghdad’s Chaldean Christian Patriarch called for Aziz’s release from prison last Christmas.

Saddam was the master of sectarian wedge politics, playing one congregation off against another. His murderous legacy continues even after his death, with angry Sunni Arab community members attacking Shias and Kurds while angry Shias and Kurds attack Arab Sunnis and Chaldean Christians. Entire groups are being held responsible for the actions of powerful individual group members like Aziz.

However, Middle Eastern Christian migrants shouldn’t take Andrews’ support for granted. If any of their sons are fatally bashed during the term of a future Coalition government, there’s some chance the Immigration Minister will claim it’s their fault for not integrating properly.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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