Their Africa, and ours


Sudan, sadly, has been a basket case for a long time. The advent of an Islamist central government in the 1980s in particular has led to decades of bloody civil war, first between the Muslim north and the Christian and animist south, and then, even more infamously, in Darfur, in the west of the country. Between them, these conflicts have cost a few million lives from violence, starvation and disease, caused tremendous internal and external refugee flows, and created untold misery and suffering for the millions more affected by the fighting, disruption of life, and the economic collapse.

Everyone who comes to Australia carries with them their history and their culture.

This is why, when a country takes in a new migrant, whether for humanitarian or economic reasons, it needs to fully understand and accept the social and economic costs and the consequences as well as the responsibility – both for and to the new arrivals and to the society as a whole.

This is not an argument for the so-called “discriminatory” immigration policy, but for the increased awareness that the flight to Australia is not the end but in many ways only the beginning of a long journey for those who make our country their new home.

Via “The Daily Mail”:

A Sudanese mother, whose eldest son has been imprisoned for gang activity, says a lack of employment opportunities is driving the wave of gang crime in Melbourne.

Asha Awur told A Current Affair the men who come from African nations like Sudan have fled traumatic upbringings and struggle to assimilate immediately into Australian culture.

She says the men feel ‘isolated and frustrated’ by their new lives, and often turn to crime as a way of combating their feelings and supporting themselves.

Ms Awur, a Sudanese mother of young children herself, says this is the case even for children who have moved to Australia, who are working to fit in at school, and in a predominantly Christian nation.

Religion is a major part of life in Sudan, with the majority of the population adhering to Islam.

Ms Awur also said those who come from overseas are not given enough support or opportunity to establish themselves.

The lack of support is something she feels herself, telling the program her Centrelink payment is not enough to raise her children on.

Ms Awur said her children rely on her for extra money, and hypothesises that they steal if she cannot provide it.

I’m not sure how representative Ms Awur is of the overall African migrant experience in Victoria, but it certainly raises many questions and points for the discussion. Everyone will have their own reactions; here are mine:

1.I don’t believe in diversity as an end in itself, and I certainly don’t believe, like many on the left seem to more or less openly, that our Western-style society is so terrible that it can only be redeemed by being diluted out of existence by other cultures, all of which are pretty much seen as better and more virtuous than ours.

2. I also don’t believe that because we happen to be a prosperous nation (which is far from a mere accident of history) we have a moral obligation to indiscriminately share our bounty with a potentially unlimited number of those living far less fortunate circumstances elsewhere around the world.

3. Those who come to Australia should be capable of integration and should in fact integrate, and by that I mean become law-abiding and productive members of the society that accept and ascribe to a broad set of “Australian values”.

4. Governments and immigration enthusiasts should stop pretending that everyone is inherently equal in their ability to integrate. It’s easy for some – it was quite easy for me, for example – but it is, for a variety of reasons, much more difficult for others, like Ms Awur and her family it seems.

5. If you choose to open the door to those who will find it more difficult to integrate, you have the obligation to provide them with and extra assistance to help them in that process.

6. Welfare should not be a way of life, either for those who “grew here” or those who “flew here”, even if they are refugees.

7. Therefore, an extra effort is required in education, training and employment services in particular to build up English language proficiency, help acquire sufficient skills to be able to compete in the labour market, and work to overcome any cultural obstacles to integration. Those migrants need specialist and targeted assistance, as our social and employment services sector is largely designed for the native-born or at least already largely integrated and tough/different cases all too often fall through the cracks.

8. This also means that those migrants who face particular challenges – for example a family of Sudanese refugees as opposed to an accountant from Hong Kong – are not confined, through government settlement policies, to self-reinforcing ghettos that are socially, educationally and economically isolated from the opportunities of the mainstream Australia.

There is a story that remains to be written by an enterprising journalist about why the African, and largely Sudanese, migrant community in Melbourne seems to have so many problems – and to create so many, not least the youth gangs, whereas in Brisbane, for example, Apex is just a car hire company, despite the fact that so many of African migrants in the Sunshine State came from an equally war-torn, disadvantaged, and culturally very different society of Somalia.

The story has much to do with how the successive state governments have worked (or not worked, or at least not very well) to make sure that the respective African migrant communities settle well and successfully. Factors like the geography of the settlement and culturally specialist employment services do seem to matter.

Nothing I have written above should be interpreted as an example of the self-flagellating and self-loathing attitude that “it’s our fault” and we (our racist and uncaring society) are to blame for the plight of the migrants.

My view is born out of realism and hard-headedness. If you don’t want to see migrant communities in this country, which have problems integrating, are mired in welfare dependency, are disengaged from the mainstream, and generate crime or even terrorism, there are only two options open to us as a country: either change the immigration program to exclude those sorts of “problematic” migrants or ensure that special resources (nor necessarily more, but different and better), ones that are cognisant of the specific challenges and obstacles migrants face by virtue of their history and background, are deployed to increase the odds of a successful integration.

It’s useless to generalise whether “immigration” as a whole is socially and economically beneficial or detrimental to the host country. In reality, there are hundreds of thousands of immigrations, and they can be either, depending on circumstances. The migrants are not the cookie-cutter clones and neither should be our attitude and our response to them. Whether you love or loathe multiculturalism, or are somewhere in between, its success doesn’t magically happen; it is made through hard and smart work. There is no such thing as a “lucky country”, and there is certainly no such thing as a lucky multicultural country; we all make our own luck.