The Australian Department of Immigration (currently the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) has rightfully been condemned for some dreadful actions over the years - turning away boatloads of refugees, passing the buck (in more ways than one) to cash-strapped Pacific islands, redrawing Australia's boundaries for migration purposes... even deporting Australian citizens who just happened to have non-Anglo names. And in the past week they've made us a global laughingstock yet again with the ludicrous Citizenship Test.
But, to its credit, the immigration department has been pretty good in recent years in taking in refugees from a number of war-torn African countries, notably Sudan and Sierra Leone. I wrote about this in June 2006.
This week, the door was slammed shut. Kevin Andrews, quite possibly the worst of a horrific crop of immigration ministers since 1996, has effectively halted the inflow of refugees from Africa for the foreseeable future. Andrews has, as stated in a media release issued yesterday, "decided to reduce the proportion of refugees from Africa to 30 per cent of the 13,000 quota for this year."
"Applications can take months and years to process, given the need for health and other checks," Andrews continued. "Most of the 30 per cent from Africa will come from those applications already in the system."
Yep, for all intents and purposes no new applicants. And Andrews had this gem to add:
Australia has the right to ensure that those who come here are integrating into a socially cohesive community. From early 2008, the capacity of migrants to integrate into the Australian community will be formally assessed through an interview. Those who are assessed as representing an unacceptable integration challenge will be refused permission to migrate to Australia.
There are, you see, problems with these lads and lassies from Sudan. Initially Andrews, true to his Mohammad Haneef form, refused to explain further, saying that his evidence was in the form of "confidential" cabinet documents. Then at a doorstop interview yesterday he spelt it out:
- Concerns about the establishment of race based gangs.
- Reports of altercations between African groups in nightclubs and at community functions.
- 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.
Which sounds to me just like what Aussie kids have been doing for years. Pity that the police statistics don't support KA's arguments.
Andrews' recent media releases and transcripts can be found here. His priceless sound bites are just too frequent to repeat here. But there's another observation to make.
I noted last December that the Tamworth City Council was coming perilously close to blocking a rampaging horde of Sudanese refugees (well, five families) from landing on their doorstep. Tamworth is in the federal electorate of New England, which is held by independent Tony Windsor. The Nationals need all the help they can get to regain a seat that was traditionally theirs.
A Hansonite immigration pledge here and there surely can't go astray...