There is a brouhaha down under as the Australian government announces a temporary halt to African refugee resettlement. The Howard government says the reason is twofold: the Africans are not assimilating and they say they want to focus their attention on helping Iraqi and Burmese refugees. Critics say this is an election year ploy.
Mr Andrews [Immigration Minister] said Africans, particularly Sudanese, had experienced serious problems settling in Australia.
“They tend to have more problems and challenges associated with them. Their level of education, for example, is a lot lower than for any other group of refugees,” he said.
The Adelaide News went on to report that refugees would soon be sitting a test to help determine their capacity to assimilate.
In August the Federal Government announced that all new refugees will have to sit an “integration test”.
The new gateway test – which was developed with African refugees in mind – will assess their ability to adapt to the Australian way of life.
Last weekend, at the Immigration meetings I attended in Washington, I met an Australian immigration activist who confirmed over dinner that indeed this is a hot topic in Australia, but he didn’t have any confidence that the Howard government was actually going to accomplish very much.
Go here, here and here for more discussion of this latest initiative in Australia. I got a kick out of the BBC coverage. They managed to work into a very short report “xenophobic voters” and “nativist streak”, I wondered why they didn’t add “unwelcoming” when describing the rural citizens’ objections:
Only last year the town of Tamworth in New South Wales voted against hosting a trial refugee resettlement programme after the Sudanese were branded as criminals by the local mayor.
Note that the total number of refugees going to Australia is in the 12,000-15,000 range. By contrast the US is seeking to resettle 70,000-80,000 this fiscal year.