Michael Koziol and Melissa Cunningham, Sydney Morning Herald, July 25, 2018
All African immigration into Australia has been called into question by former prime minister Tony Abbott amid the debate over Sudanese “gangs” in Melbourne.
Mr Abbott, speaking on 2GB radio in Sydney, argued that “we store up trouble for ourselves” by letting in people who are “difficult to integrate”.
The sensational remarks followed Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s declaration at the weekend of a “major law and order problem in Victoria” due to Sudanese “gangs”, which he linked to the death of 19-year-old South Sudanese woman Laa Chol.
Mr Abbott said Sudanese-born people in Victoria constituted less than 0.1 per cent of the population, but were responsible for “well over” 1 per cent of all crimes committed in that state, and were 57 times more likely to commit aggravated robbery than the general population.
Speaking on radio, former prime minister Tony Abbott says Melbourne has an “African gang problem” and voices support for Peter Dutton. Audio: 2GB Sydney
“So there is a problem,” he said. “It’s an African gang problem, and the Victorian socialist government should get real and own up to the fact that there is an African gang problem in Melbourne.”
But in comments that went further than those of Mr Dutton – and focused on Australia’s immigration intake rather than Victoria’s bail laws – Mr Abbott called into question the integration of all African migrants.
“I guess the big question though is: why do we store up trouble for ourselves by letting in people who are going to be difficult, difficult to integrate?” he asked.
“And this is why I think all credit to Peter Dutton, who is doing his best to manage our immigration program in our national interest – not in the interests of all sorts of people who might simply want to come here.”
The statistics cited by Mr Abbott were sourced from the Victorian Crime Statistics Agency and have been seized on by federal ministers such as Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge as evidence of a “very significant” crime problem in Melbourne, as well as a “weak” state government and legal system.
Lawyer and advocate Nyadol Nyuon deplored Mr Abbott’s comments and said they achieved nothing expect to further “dehumanise” African people.
She said that it was another blow in a series of harmful comments made by politcial leaders, which alienated the African community, adding that some African-Australians were too afraid to leave their homes.
“The community is already really struggling following the death of a young Sudanese girl, but they [politicians] don’t care about the South Sudanese community or how they are coping,” she said.
“Extreme comments like these continue to be said by very powerful people on very powerful platforms in a way which I have never seen before. These comments are not measured or considered… they are causing unimaginable harm.”
She added that racialised reporting on African crime fuelled racial anxiety and made the comments such as those by Mr Abbott seem “unrelenting and unstoppable” to the African-Australian community.
Ms Nyuon also cited figures showing formal complaints to the Victorian Human Rights Commission had soared more than 70 per cent in the past year, with the spike being attributed largely to politicians, particularly Mr Dutton.
Ahmed Hassan, a youth worker and member of Victoria Police’s African-Australian task force, said Mr Abbott’s comments were “deliberately divisive” and without basis.
“The vast majority of the African community contribute positively economically and in every other way,” he said.
“But comments like these further isolate a marginalised community that is already backed into a corner.
“They are particularly hurtful for young African people who feel targeted and are already struggling to find their feet.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has rejected criticism of his government’s response to the issue, but has introduced legislation in recent days to try to stop children as young as 14 associating with known gang members.
Victorian police commander Stuart Bateson, who liaises with the African-Australian Community Taskforce established earlier this year, has also said Ms Chol’s death amid a fight at a party was not linked to “warring Sudanese factions”.
Earlier this year, Mr Dutton stoked anger by suggesting Melburnians were afraid to go out to restaurants at night because of fears about Sudanese gang violence.