Sunday, March 24, 2013

Afghans lead 37% rise in asylum seeker claims

Just what Australia needs:  A whole  swag of illiterate and aggressive Muslims

The number of people arriving in Australia to claim asylum jumped by more than a third last year, driven by an increase in arrivals from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Last year 15,800 people claimed asylum in Australia, up 37 per cent from 2011. Afghan nationals (3079) and Sri Lankans (2345) accounted for more than a third of asylum seekers to reach Australian shores.

The increase in the number of Sri Lankans travelling to Australia by boat attracted intense public and political interest last year.

The number of Sri Lankans - mainly young Tamil men, but also Sinhalese, Muslims and small numbers of women and children - to make an asylum claim in Australia jumped from 371 in 2011 to 2345 last year (a rise of 630 per cent, but from a low base), figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees show.

The agency's numbers do not include those who arrived by boat after August 13 last year, when Australia restarted offshore processing and, according to the UNHCR, ''have not yet entered a refugee determination process, or been able to lodge a formal claim for protection''.

The number of Sri Lankans who arrived ''irregularly'' by boat on Australian shores increased by a far greater amount last year, from 211 to 6428.

Continued insecurity across Afghanistan and uncertainty over that country's future post-2014 saw the number of Afghan nationals applying for asylum jump 79 per cent to 3079.

And the number of Pakistani asylum seekers reached 1512 last year, up 84 per cent from 2011.

Australia's asylum seeker numbers, while politically sensitive, remain numerically small. Australia receives about 3 per cent of the total asylum claims made in industrialised countries around the world.

The UNHCR noted in its report: ''By comparison, asylum levels in Australia continue to remain below those recorded by many other industrialised and non-industrialised countries.''

Nearly half a million - 493,000 - asylum claims were lodged in industrialised countries last year, the second highest number on record after 2003.

Europe received 355,000 asylum seeker claims, while North America had 103,000. War, civil strife, political repression and sectarian violence continue to force movements of populations across borders.

In particular, conflict in Syria has prompted a new mass wave of refugees fleeing that country.

Afghanistan continues to provide the most asylum seekers of any country in the world, with 36,600 last year, followed by the Syrian Arab Republic, Serbia, China and Pakistan.

''Wars are driving more and more people to seek asylum,'' the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said. ''At a time of conflict, I urge countries to keep their borders open for people fleeing for their lives.''

And while the latest UNHCR figures deal with asylum claims to industrialised countries, more than 80 per cent of refugees live in developing countries.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has previously called for greater equity in assisting displaced people.

''The burden of helping the world's forcibly displaced people is starkly uneven,'' he said. ''Poor countries host vastly more displaced people than wealthier ones. While anti-refugee sentiment is heard loudest in industrialised countries, developing nations host 80 per cent of the world's refugees.''

Afghanistan alone has a diaspora of more than 2.7 million refugees across 71 countries, but more than 95 per cent are in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.


'Why didn't they help my girl?'

A HOBART father is considering legal action against the Education Department after he says his 13-year-old daughter was subjected to eight months of bullying at her school, culminating in her nose being broken and an attempt made to set her on fire.

The father, whose name has been withheld to protect his daughter's identity, said he was left dumbstruck by the failure of school authorities to provide the most basic duty of care. "I'm shattered," he said of the school's inability to deal with the repeated bullying of his daughter.

The distraught father said he could not believe his daughter's tormentors – five 13-year-old girls -- were not expelled.

Rather, the man's daughter has become a victim again by being forced to change schools.

"I was in the army, I protected my country and now I can't protect my little girl," he said.

After being contacted for a response by the Mercury, the Education Department said it would investigate.

"The department takes all incidents of violence seriously and has procedures in place to deal with them," Education Department deputy secretary Liz Banks said.

"In this instance, the school acted promptly and the actions included suspension, mediation and appropriate counselling and support for the students involved."

However, the victim's father rejected Ms Banks' claims that the school had acted "promptly".

He said the school principal failed to meet with him, despite repeated requests.

The father said the school failed to contact police when his daughter, a Year 7 student, was punched in the face by her main tormentor in the school playground on March 6.

The attack resulted in his daughter having surgery last Wednesday to reset her nose, after a week waiting for the swelling to go down.

That assault occurred on her 13th birthday and her father had allowed her to mark it by having her naturally red hair dyed brown the day before.

"The teasing had started off last year with name-calling the usual 'ranga' and the like, and she wanted to dye her hair. I held out for a long time but it didn't stop and I gave in for her birthday," he said.

"I couldn't believe they didn't call the police after my daughter was punched in the face.

"I took her to the doctor on March 6 ... She told me [my daughter's] nose was broken and I took her to the police station."

He said police had been very supportive and were dealing with the matter and the offender was suspended from school for a week.

"The day after she returned from that suspension, [my daughter] was in what was supposed to be a safe zone classroom during the lunch break," he said.

"The teacher's aide supervising the room had not been told that the girls weren't allowed near her and she let them in.

"They walked straight up to [my daughter], sprayed her with aerosol cans of hairspray and deodorant and tried to light her on fire with cigarette lighters."

The terrified girl managed to push her way through the group and run to safety with her clothing singed.

The father again met with the school and it was suggested the best option would be to remove his daughter from the school and place her elsewhere.

"I can't believe it," he said.  "I'm afraid for her life."

He said the Education Department had phoned him yesterday after it was approached by the Mercury.   "They say they're looking into it but they're eight months too late. This is going to scar her for the rest of her life."


Easy moralism on forced adoption ‘sorry’

The Prime Minister’s apology for forced adoption predictably heaped opprobrium on previous generations for the harsh and outdated attitudes that used to exist towards unwed mothers.

Equally predictably, the Prime Minister made no mention of contemporary failings, and took no responsibility for dealing with the consequences of the progressive policies of today.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the single mother’s pension by the Whitlam Government. This policy helped end the practice of forced adoption because the provision of taxpayer-funded income support gave women who became pregnant out of wedlock the realistic option to keep their children.

The 2012 Greens-dominated Senate inquiry into forced adoption reflexively lauded this as a social leap forward that marked the start of a more tolerant era. However, in the rush to criticise the conservative attitudes of early times and praise modern-day respect for family diversity, the negative social consequences were wholly ignored.

The politically incorrect reality that has emerged in the past 40 years is that welfare for the unwed has led to the very social problem that forced adoption was designed to prevent - the inability of (some but not all) single mothers reliant on public assistance to properly care for children outside of a traditional, financially self-supporting family.

The inconvenient truth is that the right to welfare has become a pathway to welfare dependence and welfare-related dysfunction for a significant underclass of single mothers and their children, and has contributed significantly to the scale of the child protection crisis confronting the nation today.

Australia’s growing underclass of problem families with serious child protection concerns includes disproportionate numbers of single-mother families with a raft of problems (drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and mental illness) that impede proper parenting. They account for more than one-third of all substantiated incidents of child abuse and neglect in Australia, and are over-represented at more than twice the expected rate, given the number of single-mother households.

Despite these statistics, the links between family type and child welfare are rarely discussed.

Elites in the media, politics, and academia are uncomfortable making judgments about different kinds of families. This is despite the impact that the reproductive and relationship decisions made by adults has on children, and despite the reams of social science evidence that shows that the children of never-married single mothers do worse on average on all measures of child wellbeing compared to other kinds of families.

Hence, the social disaster surrounding the rise of state-sponsored single-motherhood does not get the attention it deserves. Instead, as the national apology for forced adoption shows, we prefer to practice the easy moralism that condemns the sins of the past, while ignoring the current day sins of ‘enlightened’ social policies that are toxic for child welfare.


Penalty rates and job insecurity

The government’s plan to enshrine penalty rates in the Fair Work Legislation should be seen as part of a broader campaign against insecure work run by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Unfortunately, moves to strengthen penalty rates may have the perverse effect of creating further job insecurity.

This week a full bench of the Fair Work Commission, headed by President Iain Ross, rejected a bid by employers to reduce penalty rates for retailers and fast food companies.

Retailers applied to have the 25% Saturday penalty scrapped and the 100% Sunday penalty reduced to 50%. Fast food retailers sought to scrap the 25% penalty rate for Saturdays and the 50% penalty rate for Sundays, in addition to a 10% penalty to apply on weeknights after 10pm to replace the current 15% which applies from 9pm.

President Ross claimed that ‘while aspects of the application are not without merit – particularly the proposals to re-assess the Sunday penalty rate in light of the level applying on Saturdays – the evidentiary case in support of the claims was, at best, limited.’

Moves to remove penalty rates signal a growing dissatisfaction among the business community with the costs of the award system, particularly since the changes to award wages and penalty rates brought about by modern awards. The award modernisation process, plus the recent Safety Net Review, has culminated in significant hikes to labour costs.

It comes at a time where unprecedented competition from online retailers, both at home and abroad, has created downward price pressure. Small retailers are essentially getting squeezed at both ends – their revenues are falling at the same time that labour costs are increasing.

What this means is a very uncertain business environment for small retailers, and further job insecurity for the workers they employ.

A removal or reduction in penalty rates would give small retailers much-needed relief from cost pressures and allow them to operate for longer and at higher capacity during non-standard hours. For many retailers, these are the most important trading hours and would represent significant employment opportunities for workers in a fickle job market.

Penalty rates are proving more and more incompatible with the nature of the modern retail environment. A less onerous penalty rates system will alleviate cost pressures and contribute to greater business activity and better employment opportunities.


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