African youth crime concern
August 20, 2012
SUDANESE and Somali-born Victorians are about five times more likely to commit crimes than the wider community, a trend that must be addressed to prevent Cronulla-style social unrest, police warn.
The most common crimes committed by Somali and Sudanese-born Victorians are assault and robbery, illustrating the trend towards increasingly violent robberies by disaffected African youths.
''We've got to fix this now and make sure it doesn't continue, so the kids who are now 10 years old aren't in this offender bracket in five years' time. So we don't get the Cronullas happening,'' Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Tim Cartwright said.
''[At Cronulla] you had a big chunk of the community disengaged and coming to a point where you have large-scale civil unrest. That's abhorrent to us, to think we would have that.
''You look at the UK riots and you think, we don't ever want to go there, we don't ever want to see segments of our community saying they just don't care what the rest of the community does, they don't care for us, they have no engagement, don't recognise the legal system, don't recognise education.
''In the longer term the challenge for us is to fix that,'' he said.
The police statistics show the rate of offending among the Sudanese community is 7109.1 per 100,000, while for Somali people it is 6141.8 per 100,000. The figure for the wider community is 1301.0 per 100,000.
It is important to note that the overall proportion of crimes statewide committed by the Sudanese and Somali communities is only 0.92 per cent and 0.35 per cent respectively, and that people arrested and charged may falsely identify themselves as being from those communities.
For both Sudanese and Somalis, assault offences are the most common type, constituting 29.5 per cent and 24.3 per cent of all offences respectively.
''Property is one of the issues, so they're stealing iPhones or money or things of value,'' Mr Cartwright said.
''But there's also a concerning trend of violence, violence that's not needed. So once they've got the property the violence continues. Maybe there's a thrill in it, maybe a bit of revenge, but it's coming out of a lot of groups, not just the Africans.''
Chief Commissioner Ken Lay and other senior police recently met members of the African community to discuss the crime statistics and ways to tackle the issue. One person present at the meeting, Abeselom Nega, said he shared some of Mr Cartwright's fears, and that the statistics presented by the police were ''confronting''.
He said the violent offending was a serious concern to the African community, but that it was important to note the positive contribution many Africans made to the wider community.
''I don't have the experience that the Deputy Commissioner has, but prolonged disengagement and disenfranchisement would no doubt lead to social unrest,'' said Mr Nega, who heads iEmpower, an early intervention and diversionary youth service.
''Tackling crime on a daily basis is a reactive response, and the police would have to do that. But I think it is important to have a proactive strategy that addresses the root cause of disengagement.
''Far too many young people are out of school, not in training or employment, and this needs an immediate response from the government and the whole community,'' he said.
''But it is important to recognise that there are many young people making positive contributions to society, and that they are marginalised by the actions of those people who are responsible for the increase in crime.''
Mr Cartwright said it was crucial to recognise that police could not solve the problem simply by locking people up, and that the root causes of high crime rates needed to be tackled.
''The concern when you see these sorts of numbers is that, if you don't do anything about it, it will continue. We lock up all these offenders and there's another, growing tranche behind them who have the same issues,'' he said.
Greens call for increased refugee intake
The Greens will move a motion in the Senate calling on the Government to act quickly to increase Australia's humanitarian intake of refugees.
The Houston report on asylum seekers recommends that Australia immediately increase its yearly intake from 20,000 to 27,000 within five years.
Greens Senator Hanson-Young says the Government must also fund the agencies in Malaysia and Indonesia which look after asylum seekers while they are having their claims assessed.
(Greens Senator Hanson-Young center picture)
She says the Federal Government has adopted the harsh aspects of the Houston report but it must also implement the other recommendations.
"We have seen no commitment, no timeline, no genuine desire to implement those [other recommendations]," she said.
"The Government must start with increasing immediately the humanitarian intake to 20,000."
The move comes as the Navy assisted another asylum seeker boat east of Ashmore Island.
Initial reports suggest there were 19 passengers and two crew on board.
They are being transferred to Darwin where they will undergo initial health and security checks, and could be processed on Nauru or Manus Island.
Australian Human Rights Commission president Professor Gillian Triggs warned the Government that her organisation will be watching it closely as it implements its offshore processing plans.
She told The World Today the Federal Government's amendments could review judicial oversight of offshore processing arrangements.
"By stripping away Section 1(98A) of the Migration Act, which was the basis on which the High Court last acted, it does make it much more difficult to have a High Court review of the circumstances in which third party processing will take place," she said.
She said the arrangement could mean that human rights protections will be violated.
"It's not a given at all and all I can do as president is to raise my concern ... of course everything depends on the facts ultimately," she said.
"We don't quite yet know what the conditions are actually going to be."
While there will be no judicial oversight under the arrangement, the locations the Government chooses for regional processing will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.
Professor Triggs says that is not enough.
"I think that in the current political environment, the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny is not particularly strong - although obviously there are people in parliament who are willing to keep a very strong watching brief on this," she said.
"So I wouldn't dismiss that as a precaution."
She said was concerned the Immigration Minister would no longer be required to consider the interests of individual children.
"While in the past the Minister had to give consent in writing, that requirement no longer exists in the legislation and the Migration Act itself takes precedence above the Guardianship of Children Act," she said.
"The position is that the Minister will not need to give individual attention, particularly to children, when making a determination that they are to be sent to another reprocessing centre.
"There is a fundamental principle that the rights of the child are a primary consideration and each child's best interests must be considered. If the Minister is no longer required to do that, then we have concerns."