Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Cold War migrants left out in the cold

19 July 20160 comments

Migrants refused full Australian citizenship for decades on political grounds have called for official acknowledgement of their mistreatment from the federal government.

Hundreds of migrants who came to Australia under a post-war settlement scheme were denied naturalisation for decades without being given a reason, according a report by SBS.

Declassified government documents show the migrants were recorded as national security risks because of suspected or confirmed associations with the Communist Party of Australia or some migrant community groups.

ASIO and the Immigration Department reportedly kept hundreds of migrants and their communities under surveillance for decades and maintained a secret list of thousands earmarked for potential internment and other restrictions because of their political beliefs, the report said.

It said that many migrants openly admitted they had joined political migrant groups, had links to the Communist Party of Australia, visited clubs with connections to communist countries, or were involved in trade unions.

The surveillance and bans were carried out between the 1950s and the 1970s.

The report said information on individuals in Australia was traded with foreign intelligence agencies, including the right wing Greek government in the aftermath of that country’s bitter civil war.

Migrant interviewees told SBS they suffered severe consequences because of their residency status – including being targeted for deportation, criminal charges, restricted travel to their homelands and social exclusion.

They said they wanted acknowledgement they were wrongly treated and a formal apology from the federal government.

Former high court judge Michael Kirby told SBS that Australia needed to “acknowledge that wrongs were done and to have it expressed in our national parliament”.

The group were given adverse security assessments and had to wait decades to gain naturalisation or become a permanent resident, resulting in the inability to temporarily leave the country to visit family overseas.

Pathways to citizenship are the foundation of successful settlement, belonging and acceptance in any society, and are highly valued by Australia’s diverse communities.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) supports the calls for the government to acknowledge the unfair treatment of these post-WWII migrants as an important step in preventing similar injustice in the future.

The report is titled Unwanted Australians by SBS Journalists Kristina Kukolja and Lindsey Arkley. You can read the full report here.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist