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Fraser was warned on Lebanese migrants
The first report of 2007 from The Australian
. I like Australians; they say what they think.
IMMIGRATION authorities warned the Fraser government in 1976 it was accepting too many Lebanese Muslim refugees without "the required qualities" for successful integration. The Fraser cabinet was also told many of the refugees were unskilled, illiterate and had questionable character and standards of personal hygiene.
Cabinet documents released today by the National Archives under the 30-year rule reveal how Australia's decision to accept thousands of Lebanese Muslims fleeing Lebanon's 1976 civil war led to a temporary collapse of normal eligibility standards. (I had wondered how Australia got so many Lebanese; I still cannot understand how Norway got so many Pakistanis.)
The emergence of the documents raises the question of whether the temporary relaxation might have contributed to contemporary racial tensions in Sydney's southwest, which exploded a year ago into race-based riots in Cronulla.
. . . But demographer Bob Birrell said the relatively depressed nature of Sydney's Muslim community could easily be linked to the lack of education and work skills of the 1970s migrants.
John Howard was accused of inflaming public hatred towards the Islamic community last February when he warned that aspects of Muslim culture posed an unprecedented challenge for Australia's immigration program.
The Prime Minister said while he remained confident the overwhelming majority of Muslims would be successfully integrated, there were unique problems that previous intakes of migrants from Europe and Asia did not have.
"I do think there is this particular complication because there is a fragment which is utterly antagonistic to our kind of society, and that is a difficulty," he told The Australian then. "You can't find any equivalent in Italian, Greek, or Lebanese, or Chinese or Baltic immigration to Australia. There is no equivalent of raving on about jihad, but that is the major problem. I think some of the associated attitudes towards women (are also) a problem."
Dr Birrell, who heads Monash University's Centre for Population and Urban Research, said a study last year had shown Lebanese Muslims in southwest Sydney were less well-off economically than Lebanese Christians. Dr Birrell said this reflected the lack of work skills and education of many of the refugees who arrived in the 1970s.
But they have had 30 years in a country once described as the “British working class set down in paradise”. Relatives of mine left the bombed and poor East End for NSW in 1946, worked hard and did very well. I think it was the hard work that was the secret.