Thursday, October 04, 2007

Rethinking the refugee & humanitarian program

Mr. Kevin Andrews has initiated a discussion on the way entrants to Australia are selected via the refugee and humanitarian (r&h) program. This is separate part of Australia’s migration program – the r&h program took in around 13,000 people over 2006/07.

Andrews at one point suggests lowering entry levels from Africa on the grounds that migrants from these areas had problems settling in Australia, were more likely to be involved in crime and so on. These increased proclivities it is claimed stem from difficult upbringings in countries such as the Sudan.

Applications for entry via the r&h program vastly exceed any plausible quota that will ever be agreed to in Australia. Thus selectivity must be practised. The issue is whether selectivity should be practised on the basis of migrant need or suitability for resettlement in Australia.

Those left-wingers who see Australia as a social planning experiment conducted by pop sociologists and political scientists – rather than the home to Australian people - put all weight on the needs of those seeking to migrate (Pravda in Melbourne of course holds this view) whereas I think the welfare of the recipient community also needs to be a factor. On this basis it seems to me that entry should reflect both refugee need and resettlement prospects. Not exclusively one or the other.

On this basis switching the direction of the intake to accepting more Asian refugees – perhaps those displaced by the current events in Burma – is an option worth considering. I say it is an option because migrants from South East Asia seem to have integrated well into the Australian community, built good businesses and for the most part become exemplary citizens. Moreover, there are issues of economic self-interest in having communities of such migrants in Australia as well as reduced resettlement costs given existing family and community ties such people have here.

One major issue in evaluating this option is that hard data on the resettlement and crime costs associated with different groups of migrants are hard to come by. Almost all claims reflect anecdote rather than careful study. Indeed one could imagine the left wing savagery that would emerge were an academic report to be published showing a particular group faced higher costs.

Immigration authorities over the years, and groups such as the former Bureau of Immigration Research, have refused to carry out such studies. Yet it does seem to me that there are problems with the resettlement experiences of those coming from Africa. This is made clear when one reads accounts from those supporting such migrations.

Toby Hall writing in The Age this morning criticises the ‘stories’ and untruths’ associated with African migrants and the proclivity to ‘demonise’ them but then goes on to write:

It's true that these groups face a unique set of challenges in this country, but we knew that would be the case, and their issues have either gone unaddressed, or been exacerbated, because of poor planning and a lack of services.

Victoria is the second-most popular settlement area for newly arrived communities from the Horn of Africa, receiving about 24 per cent of the new settlers. In 2004-05, Sudanese refugees were the largest component of Australia's humanitarian program, and have predominantly settled in Melbourne.

About half of the arrivals are children and young people with poor literacy and numeracy. Some have not been to school at all. Some have spent years in camps. Many have suffered abuse. Their families have typically experienced torture and trauma, the loss of relatives and spent considerable time in refugee camps.

As a result of the violence, many families are headed by single mothers who are themselves victims of sexual assault and abuse.

As families wrestle with the massive cultural differences in Australia, a new set of tensions and challenges have arisen. Young arrivals rub up against traditionally minded parents as they take on Western values and culture to fit in at their schools'.

Hall then goes on to write about the need to spend more public money resettling such people - further confirming that there is an issue of concern here.

If one places weight not only on the welfare of immigrants but also on their host community then it is reasonable to consider options which more selectively target high resettlement cost groups and put increased weight instead on settlers who better satisfy the other relevant group of people whose welfare needs to be considered here namely resident Australians.


TJW said...

It would be interesting to see how different humanitarian groups adapt to a new country. There was a report done a while back called the "Fiscal Impact of Migrants to Australia" that is available from this page

It found humanitarian entrants as a whole represented a financial burden over the 10 year study period that the report reviewed but they didn't differentiate between subsets within that group. I don't have any skill in economics so I'm sure you'd understand it better than me and I might have misinterpreted it.

conrad said...

There is a report from around a decade ago (from the Australian Institute of Criminology if I remember correctly) that documented which groups create what amount of crime.
There are also cross-cultural comparisons, which, incidentally, suggest that we should not be allowing so many English speaking Anglo-saxons to enter (e.g., kiwis) as they create almost ten times as much crimes as some other groups (almost the same as white Australians -- another exceptionally high crime group). These guys are clearly a burden on the low crime non-white groups and the non-English speaking white groups that don't have high crime rates. We should cancel the free movement agreement we have with them.
I'd prefer to see East Asians (versus SE Asians, who were higher up the crime figures) or some northern European groups who have low crime rates in their own countries, and, at least based on that report, low crime rates in Australia.
My bet is that more up to data than the above mentioned survey exists, but it is just not getting released for political reasons.

hc said...

I assume any such study would automatically be labelled racism by the unthinking left if it found systematic differences in cost on the basis of ethnicity.

But these costs are relevant if you buy my line that resettlement issues need to be addressed as well as refugee need.

conrad said...

I do buy the line -- I'm just being cynical, in that most of the comments in the media are not based on data but on stereotypes.

You can have a look at the real data there, and as you'll see, kiwis are high up that list. Yet we don't here anything about them.

The other things that is worth considering is that if you want to use future benefit as a covariate on selection, it makes most sense to use it with the work-based immigration categories, as then you are not in the position of taking people for supposed altruistic reasons

whyisitso said...

"English speaking Anglo-saxons to enter (e.g., kiwis) as they create almost ten times as much crimes as some other groups"

I wonder what evidence has Conrad to so confidently make the assumption that these Kiwis are Anglo-saxon.

hc said...

Whyisit so, I agree.

There is a widespread belief that it is non-European, New Zealand migrants (South Pacific Islanders) and migrants who seek entry to Australia by first migrating to New Zealand (it has weaker immigration restrictions) that have high crime rates in Australia.

conrad said...

"I wonder what evidence has Conrad to so confidently make the assumption that these Kiwis are Anglo-saxon"

There's two ways to infer this:
1) The crime rate in NZ is about the same as Australia (i.e., exceptionally high by OECD standards -- and thats not even including things like pesrsonal drug usage, which is very high in both Aus & NZ). Thus all that is happening is they are keeping the same sort of crime rate -- or is something special going on?

2) A huge percentage of what would be NZs population live in Australia (0.5 million). It is only very recently that espcially non-random effects have been occuring (since of course white-trash kiwis can come over, unlike every other country), and this has been stopped anyway(it also isn't clear whether it would have lifted their crime rate or reduced it, since the non-random effects were people from lower crime groups). It therefore seems likely that the crime caused by kiwis who are in Australia (who are predominately white -- probably moreso in Australian than in NZ) is also predominantely white crime.

3) We could worry about second generation effects here too. Kiwis integrate into Australian culture very quickly. WHite kiwis become white AUstralians. They therefore end up having high crime rates.

whyisitso said...

"crime caused by kiwis who are in Australia (who are predominately white -- probably moreso in Australian than in NZ) is also predominantely white crime."

Again, absolutely no evidence as to what proportion of crime involving NZers is Anglo-Saxon crime.

conrad said...


Given that most Kiwis in Australia are white, and that the statistics from the report are actually Victorian ones (where some of NZs higher crime groups go the least), I find it hard to imagine how any small minority high crime non-white group would change the mean to any meaningful extent (and, for that matter, wouldn't be counterbalanced by low crime non-white groups). And if they did, I'm sure we'd know about it -- can you point out such a group?

This is essentially the same argument for why we know white Australian are also exceedingly high in crime. The figures of the report and the OECD figures only tell us the mean for Australian born, and this includes high crime groups that are not white groups (e.g., Aboriginies), and low crime groups too (e.g., Chinese). However, since these groups are so small, the amount they could change the mean is trivial.