Thursday, October 04, 2007

Yet another case of non-integration?

Under the headline “Police in Denial over hangs: Andrews", Oz reporter Dick Kerbaj clutches at straws to overcome compelling evidence from Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon that Sudanese refugees are no more represented in crime figures than any other group. Yet all he can find (apart from some allegedly confidential Cabinet material) is the claims of one anonymous police officer.

Andrews claims Nixon and her colleagues are trying to paint a rosy picture "in the interest of creating "a perception of community harmony"". Naturally, if Nixon turns out to be correct, we can conclude that Andrews himself is distorting the evidence to undermine community harmony.

Yesterday Andrews told Neil Mitchell of “problems” with Sudanese and other African refugees. He claimed “settlement wasn’t occurring at the rate that occurred with other refugee and other migrant groups in Australia .”

Sounds familiar? Hardly 18 months ago, the PM made virtually identical claims about “a small minority” of Muslim migrants who posed greater challenges to Australia ’s social cohesion than any other migrant group. Since then, he has used every available opportunity to ram that message home.

We should recall the words of Gerard Henderson in The Age about his old boss having

... the one significant blot on his record in
public life … a certain lack of empathy in dealing with individuals with whom he
does not identify at a personal level: for example, Asian Australians in the
late 1980s and asylum seekers in the early 21st century.

On all such occasions, Howard has complained that the most recent undesirable group has failed to integrate as well as previous groups. Meanwhile, some of his government’s close allies show their excessive integration by calling for the Christian Right take over Australian politics, while others belong to extremist sects that make Sudanese look like the HR Nicholls Society.

Today’s Herald-Sun editorial suggests African refugees are being curtailed to allow for refugees from the Burma and Iraq . But should a Burmese mother mourn her son’s violent death in the suburbs of Melbourne or Sydney on the eve of an election, will we be seeing another reference to integration? Will Burmese refugees be told their numbers are being cut back (as Howard said in 1988) "to ensure the maintenance of social harmony and cohesion”?

And how can we be certain that future Iraqis aren’t just treated by wedge-seeking politicians as just another undesirable group “of Middle Eastern appearance”?

© Irfan Yusuf 2007

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