Australian government denies racism

Minister defends decision to cut number of African refugees Australia accepts.

    Alakir Biar likes Australia because
    it  has a "mix of cultures"

    Australia currently allows 13,000 refugees to resettle from across the world every year.

    According to the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils, Australia ranks third in the world with only the US and Canada allowing more.

    'Mix of cultures'

    Four years ago, 70 per cent of Australia's refugee quota was allocated to Africans.

    But this year, Canberra is cutting that to 30 per cent, a decision that has angered African communities and outraged human rights groups.

    Andrews says African refugees - particularly those from Sudan - are not "integrating" properly into Australian society.

    Playing in the garden of their home in southern Sydney, three girls who fled the war in Sudan and two who were born here to Sudanese parents told Al Jazeera they are all very happy to call Australia home.

    "We get to learn different languages, go to school, meet new people, learn new sports," Apajok Biar says.
     
    "Australia has got a mix of cultures like its got different people and they can all talk together and interact with each other without any difference," Apajok's sister, Alakir, says.

    Andrews says some African refugees
    struggle to "integrate" into Australian society

    But Andrews says Sudanese refugees generally have lower levels of education which makes it tougher for them to find jobs.

    "

    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," he said.
     
    Many Sudanese end up taking employment that is usually harder to fill including at an abattoir Al Jazeera visited.

    Election issue

    Andrews claims there are higher crime rates in areas where African refugees are settled. But this is based on anecdotal evidence only. Crime statistics show there is no increase at all.

    With an election due before the end of the year, some critics believe the Australian government is using this issue to win votes.

    Paul Power from Refugee Council Australia says the government of John Howard is trying "to drive a wedge between Australians who are supportive of a refugee programme and Australians who either don't understand or are against a refugee programme".

    The majority of people supportive of African refugees are likely to vote for the opposition Labor party.

    "I'll be voting for the opposition and all my boys will be voting for the opposition as well, Marin Dhuol, a Sudanese Australian, says.

    Labor has admitted it agrees that the number of African refugees should be cut, but says it has been puzzled at "new rhetoric" from Andrews.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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