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Minister discusses ethnic violence; refugee settlement services; and migrant health screening.



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Kevin Andrews MP Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Interview with Neil Mitchell

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Interview Neil Mitchell, 3AW Mornings

Subjects Ethnic violence, refugee settlement services, migrant health screening

E&OE

[Greetings omitted]

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is there a cultural problem with some of these groups?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well there’s certainly difficulty in terms of their rate of settlement. And it’s not just in Melbourne, I have had similar reports from other cities in Australia, from Sydney, from Perth and elsewhere. So there does seem to be something occurring in terms of their ability to be able to settle at the kind of rate that you would normally expect migrants to settle into Australia.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Are we talking here specifically about Sudanese people?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

It seems to be largely around the Sudanese, that’s true. Not exclusively but certainly largely around the Sudanese, particularly in the major cities.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So how many Sudanese people come into this country as refugees?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well to put it in context, Neil, we take about 13,000 people as refugees and humanitarian entrants to Australia. Last year 50 per cent of the quota came from Africa, and the two year before that it was 70 per cent. I’ve reduced it for this year, financial year, I’ve reduced it this year to 30 per cent.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Why?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well for two reasons. One is what we’ve been talking about, mainly that I have been concerned about the rate of settlement and so I’ve done two things, reduced the numbers so that if you’ve got a problem it doesn’t seem to me to be a good idea to keep adding to the problem until you’ve solved the problem you’ve got in the first place. And in doing that we’ve also put in this years budget an extra $200 million into settlement services, largely aimed at this group. The other factor we took into account was that we consulted, as we do each year, with the United Nation High Commission for Refugees and they indicated to us that some of the conflict that had been occurring and therefore the need for refugee resettlement in Africa had eased and that there were other places around the world, particularly people who were displaced from the conflict in Iraq, that they were hoping that countries like Australia would take some more of. And we’ve also go people, which we’ve seen highlighted in the last week or so, from Thailand, from Burma I should say, who have, are refugees in Thailand.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, I understand that on the basis that there might be people more needy, that, that the refugee intake is adjusted, but it would be the first time that we, would it not be the first time we’ve adjusted the intake on the basis of, of a race?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well it’s not on a basis of a race as such. It’s simply on the basis of whether or not people can settle in Australia. I mean, I…

NEIL MITCHELL:

But there’s a decision on the race, aren’t we saying, ‘well you know the Sudanese people are having trouble settling therefore we’ll have fewer come in?’

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well I don’t know what decisions have been taken in the past, over, you know, the 50 to 60 years of our immigration programme, but certainly it seemed to me, and looking at it when I came to this portfolio and consulting widely about

it and just looking at what evidence was about, it was clear that settlement wasn’t occurring at the rate that occurred with other refugee and other migrant groups to Australia. And, as I said, I don’t see much point, if you are having problems then adding to those problems by continuing to bring more people in, I think we’ve got to deal with the people we have here now, offer more services, which we are doing with the extra $200 million, then look at it again.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So do you accept, you do accept from what you’re being told that there are problems at the moment that need addressing?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Oh yes, I mean, I have clearly been told by a variety of sources that there are problems and, you know, we see things reported in the media as well which are, you know, a further indication of that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

We, we have a case, a man facing court here who, well he will face court, who’s charged with assaulting a police woman, biting and assaulting a police woman. He’d been in the country three weeks and the first week he was, the capsicum spray was used by the police, in the third week he’s allegedly attached this woman. If he’s convicted of that would he be likely to be deported?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

If he’s convicted and he gets a jail sentence of 12 months or more…

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

…then that raises the character issues under the Migration Act, and I would, you know, look at all the advice in relation to him, but yes there is a possibility that his visa could be removed.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay but, the, the rule says that it’s a jail sentence of 12 months or more?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

That’s right.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, the other issues, in this case, is the young Police Officer having been bitten and had blood all over is waiting for HIV tests. Is such a refugee brought into the country, are they subject to things such as an HIV test?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Yes, refugees coming to the country are subject to both health and character tests and that usually involves HIV tests.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But they wouldn’t be refused entry because they were HIV positive would they?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Not automatically, but if they have got HIV then there’s a discretion as to whether or not they come into the country. Normally someone with HIV wouldn’t come into the country, that is they wouldn’t be accepted as a refugee but there are circumstances in which people, that rule is waived. For example, you might have a family coming in which one of the children, regrettably, has HIV. Well in those circumstances, as a matter of, I suppose compassion toward the whole family, you might make a waiver in that regard.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And I assume, is that medical record held confidentially?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

The medical record is held confidentially. We, we through the Immigration Department, have health checks down overseas before a person is accepted for migration to Australia under this programme.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you very much for speaking to us, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Kevin Andrews.

[Ends]

Media Contact: Kate Walshe 0421 588 794