'Police in denial' over Sudanese gang problem

news.com.au via fortress australia oct 2007

IMMIGRATION Minister Kevin Andrews has accused senior police of trying to paper over a serious Sudanese gang problem, but has refused to release evidence to back up claims African migrants were a major crime threat.

Despite Victorian Chief Police Commissioner Christine Nixon said Africans committed just a fraction of crime in the state and were not a problem, but Mr Andrews said anecdotal evidence suggested otherwise.

The Immigration Minister cited "cabinet in confidence" for not releasing a report that he said detailed a serious problem among African refugees.

Announcing a freeze on refugees from troubled nations such as Sudan, Mr Andrews said the inability of Africans to adjust to the Australian lifestyle was a factor in the decision, which was first flagged in The Australian in February.

"The advice on which we made the decision was largely material which was provided in submissions to cabinet and, as you know, cabinet submissions are confidential. But can I say that there was widespread examination of this, including by an interdepartmental committee particularly in relation to the settlement issues."

Mr Andrews said Victorian police had to admit there was a problem with violence among young African migrants.

"I have anecdotal reports from police which indicate that there is a gang culture in Victoria, in some parts, and they are concerned about it," Mr Andrews said.

"It concerns me that, at an official level, this seems to have been played down. But ignoring the problem won't make it go away."

Police might be underplaying the seriousness of gang-related violence and refusing to label it as such in the interest of creating "a perception of community harmony", Mr Andrews said.

"But the reality is that there's evidence that this is occurring," he said.

"The best way to deal with it is to name the problem, for a start. If you don't name the problem, you're not going to adequately be able to deal with it."

Mr Andrews' comments came after Ms Nixon said young African men accounted for less than 1per cent of the state's crime statistics and did not present a major difficulty for law enforcement.

"Even the Sudanese group, there's only really a particular group, about 100 of them actually, who are repeat offenders," Ms Nixon said.

"And so they're the ones we're strongly focusing on."

Ms Nixon's official line was at odds with comments from police on the beat in Melbourne's southeast last week.

"They walk around in packs," said an officer who wanted to remain anonymous. "It's a real problem at the moment for us."