Australia: Muslim groups support immigration changes

Amana Media Initiative
Some Australian Muslim groups see recently announced changes to Australian immigration policy as a positive development for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The recently elected Australian government announced changes to the country's immigration policy in their first months of government. The proposed change in approach has the potential to roll back a policy of mandatory detention which placed all illegal arrivals in Australia in Immigration detention.
The decision is significant for Australia's Muslim community, as the majority of recent humanitarian visas have been granted to asylum seekers from Muslim countries including from Iraq, Africa and Central Asia. While acknowledging that the changes are yet to be implemented, Muslim groups have welcomed the government's statements.

The Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN), is a network of volunteers dedicated to preventing the erosion of civil rights of all Australians. It provides a Muslim perspective on matters relating to civil rights.

Ayishah Ansari, a Legal Convenor for AMCRAN, pointed out that "Australia has a significant Muslim population, which sympathises with the situation of refugee and asylum seekers that come to this country. As Muslims, we are interested in seeing that all people, Muslims and non-Muslims, are treated humanely. Australian Muslims are happy to see the end of policies that meant that people (including children) guilty of no crime could be locked up for up to three years."

She also pointed out that asylum seekers should not be treated as criminals. "As members of a faith which upholds ethical treatment of all people, the most important thing for us is that it shifts the onus of proof...rather than the Department of Immigration and Citizenship assuming that a person must be detained, the decision requires the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to prove that a person should be detained. This means a lot less people will be unnecessarily detained. We also appreciate that children, in particular, will no longer be detained." AMCRAN had also been aware of the stereotyping of Muslim migrants by the previous government through various high profile terrorism cases, and Ansari said that AMCRAN hoped the new government would put an end to the punishment mentality directed at migrants, and consider each on a case by case basis.

The potential erosion of stereotypes has also been welcomed by the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV). Heba Ibrahim from the ICV said that by "Allowing asylum seekers into the community in conjunction with the provision of essential services such as linking them to appropriate service providers and organisations is definitely a positive step to counter the effects of this [negative] stereotype." She said that coupled with the trauma of being dislocated from their home country with little hope of returning, mandatory detention had a huge psychological impact on asylum seekers, and that the abolition of the policy would have a positive effect on civil rights for Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia.

23 September 2008

Source: Amana Media Initiative