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Media Release: Refugees the victims of crime not the perpetrators

14 June 20130 comments

Asylum seekers on bridging visas are much more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators of it, according to data from Australia’s leading refugee settlement agency.

Information collected by refugee settlement agency AMES shows there have been more than a dozen assaults on asylum seekers over the past three months.

There have also been ten incidents of theft or robbery and at least three home invasions committed against recently arrived refugees.

The data refutes recent reports that young Afghan men living in Melbourne’s south east were committing crimes and posing a threat to public safety.

“Our experience is that asylum seekers are much more likely to be the victims of crime than the creators of it,” said AMES CEO Cath Scarth.

“The Afghani Hazara people particularly, many of whom have congregated in Melbourne’s south east, are some of the most hard-working and upstanding people who have come to Australia in recent decades. “They are an incredibly law abiding and compliant people. There are very few, if any, serving time in prison or currently facing criminal charges,” Ms Scarth said.

Recent incidents of crime or violence against recently arrived refugees include:

• Nine Sri Lankan asylum seekers were injured, with two taken to hospital, after being bashed by a gang of men who stole money, phones and immigration paper work. One of the men was hit with an iron bar, another with a glass bottle;

• A gang surrounded a house occupied by asylum seekers, threatened the tenants, demanded cigarettes and other goods and then smashed all the windows;

• A man was attacked and injured at bus stop by four men who got out of a car. The gang stole more than $250 and personal documents;

• An asylum seeker was attacked and injured by a man who forced his way into his home and stole two laptops and cash, and;

• An asylum seeker was attacked and punched in a car park in Sunshine and robbed of $20 by two men. He has not reported the incident to police because he fears it will affect his application for a Protection Visa.

“Many of the asylum seekers were victims of torture, violence or persecution in their home countries. Now, many are suffering depression and isolation, attempting suicide as well as being stuck in poverty without basic household facilities,” Ms Scarth said.

“Many of them fear speaking out or reporting crimes against them because they have a fear of police and authority instilled in them in their home countries or because they fear it will affect the outcome of their claims; or because they hold fears for family members still at home.”

There are now more than 3,000 asylum seekers on bridging visas in Victoria with more than 700 of them arriving since Christmas.

Under federal government refugee policy, these people – who all arrived after August 13 last year – cannot work and receive 89 per cent of CentreLink benefits – or $220 a week.

About AMES
AMES is a statutory authority of the Victorian Government. It is Australia’s leading provider of settlement, education and employment services to newly arrived migrants and refugees.

For images, interviews and more information please contact AMES Media Advisor, Laurie Nowell at or 9938 46031 or 0498 196 500.