It is not unreasonable to expect that Australian immigrants should not be more likely to become criminals than people born in Australia. Is this happening with our immigration program? Examination of statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for the years 1991-1998 demonstrate that there is a wide variation of the involvement in criminal activities of settlers from the source countries for the Australian immigration program.
To enable a logical analysis of the asset/liability of immigrants from various countries, I have derived an indicator called the Criminal Representation Ratio (CRR). Using population and prison figures provided by the AIC and the ABS, the number of prisoners born in Australia per 100,000 adult population is obtained and given a CRR of one. Similar figures are then obtained for prisoners born in a number of representative countries for the Australian immigration program and compared with the Australian-born figures and given a CRR related to the Australian figure. A CRR greater than one indicates a crime involvement rate higher than that of Australian-born criminals.
Figure one well-demonstrates that settlers from Vietnam, Lebanon, Turkey, New Zealand and Oceania/Papua New Guinea are consistently more convicted of crime between the years of 1991-1998 than Australian-born residents by a factor of up to 2.6. This seems to be significant but is overwhelmed by the figures obtained when the crime of drug trafficking is specifically examined as demonstrated in figure two below where immigrants from three countries, Vietnam, Lebanon and Turkey are shown to have been as much as twenty times more likely to become involved in this most heinous of crimes than people born in Australia. The CRR of criminals from Vietnam has in fact been consistently increasing over this period of time.
Analysis of Immigrant Prisoner Data
It is surely important to establish if there is an identifiable immigration category from which the majority of the criminals appear to originate. The basic immigration categories are family reunion, skilled and humanitarian. It is quite extraordinary that there is no provision for collecting this data within the Departments of Corrective Services throughout Australia. It is also very important to know the age at which immigrants convicted of crimes arrived in Australia and how long after doing so they committed the crime for which they were imprisoned.
This information would be of great value in assessing whether it is appropriate to continue offering citizenship to immigrants after only two years. The basic information that is collected now concerning country of birth is self-reported by criminals, hardly a reliable source. The wider range of prisoner data which should be collected must obviously be subjected to a process of verification to be useful for statistical purposes.
Such information would enable a sensible analysis of the problem and decisions to be taken concerning more careful assessment of potential immigrants from the relevant category rather than condemning the entire ethnic group as an unacceptable risk for the Australian immigration program. Without having any hard evidence, it is my impression that the group most likely to be at fault is the family reunion group and interestingly, this group has had its immigration numbers significantly curtailed over the last two years.
I am informed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics that information concerning the country of birth of prisoners and their most serious offence/charge has not been directly reported since 1995 for which reason it is much more difficult to continue the review of immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes such as drug trafficking. This has been an extraordinarily inept decision taken somewhere in the bureaucracy and this data should be retrospectively collected from 1996 and continued permanently.
People having permanent residency in Australia are encouraged to become Australian citizens after a mere two years. The problem with this is that it is extremely difficult to deport criminals once they have become citizens and Australia is lumbered with their presence permanently. Under certain circumstances, Australian citizenship can be revoked but only within ten years of it having being granted. As in the UK, a ten year probationary period of permanent residence should be required before consideration is given to an application for citizenship. The existing legislation is unsatisfactory and the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 should be revised so that no immigrant should ever consider he or she is immune from deportation for serious offences. For non-citizens, deportation is considered with any offence where the penalty has been a jail term in excess of one year and should be applied much more frequently than it is at present. Also, the present ten year limit on deportation of a permanent resident after the committing of a serious offence should be removed.
Integration of Immigrants
Immigration should take place in an orderly manner so that integration of immigrants into the existing community will be more likely than the formation of ethnic enclaves where failure to learn English and consequent unemployment are fertile ground for the development of criminal behaviour. This unfortunate sequence of events seems to explain the inordinate levels of crime and particularly drug trafficking in the Vietnamese communities in Richmond in Melbourne and Cabramatta in Sydney.
The most efficient manner of achieving integration of migrants into a community is at the time of the children attending school. For this reason, there is a very dangerous desire in some communities to arrange government subsidies for Islamic schools. In general, Islamic immigrants do not tend to readily integrate into the general community and once again, the results of this are manifest in the high unemployment and crime rates within the Lebanese, Turkish and Romanian communities. The ongoing disastrous conflict in Northern Ireland would be well on the way to resolution if the Catholic and Protestant schools had been integrated 25 years ago.
Immigrants From Other Countries
It is proving difficult to collect data concerning the Criminal Representation Ratio of immigrants born in such countries as Iraq, Iran, China, Korea and Romania where anecdotal evidence suggests disproportionately high levels of criminal activity in Australia. I am continuing to pursue this data.
On the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs web site under: Immigration, The Facts-Immigration Kit. Dispelling the Myths about Immigration, one question asked is: Is it true that migrants are more involved in crime? The given answer is somewhat disingenuous as it starts off saying "no", but then at the end admits that immigrants from Vietnam, Lebanon and Turkey do have a higher rate of imprisonment than expected from their numbers in the population. Much more careful research concerning the unlawful activities of immigrants is required to enable Australia’s immigration program to be more heavily weighted towards being an asset rather than a liability.
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