Govt urged to help migrant youths integrate

: South Sudanese community leaders and Victorian police meet bimonthly Source: AAP

Migrant youth support groups are calling on the federal government to offer more support to help migrant youths integrate into the community.

Tamara Mirzada was 13 years old when she moved to Australia as an Afghan refugee.

"When I was growing up, I wore the hijab in high school, and I faced lots of discrimination and being called a terrorist when I just came here."

It is something the Sydney woman says happens daily within the Muslim community, and it is part of a phenomenon migrant-support groups want to stop.

Katie Acheson is chief executive of Youth Action, one of many groups to make a submission to the government calling for more support for migrant youth.

"And there's this idea they are criminal or have some connection to criminal behaviour, or anti-social behaviour in any way, shape or form. And, actually, white young males are more likely to be committing crime than that particular community. So we're not seeing the vilification happening across the cultures, it's just in particular communities, and we need to stop that."

Apajok Biar is a youth ambassador for the Multicultural Youth of Australia Network.

She says many South Sudanese migrants are being unfairly linked to issues like gang violence and many in her community are considered guilty until proven innocent.

"The people they see in the media are just a small percentage of who the South Sudanese people are. And there are so many of us who are achieving such great things, and we are really contributing to Australia as a whole, and they should really consider that, not just profile us because of what one person has done."

Multicultural Youth Network of Australia research has found young people in New South Wales who speak languages other than English are less likely to commit crimes than other youths.

And Victorian youths born overseas are less than half as likely to be alleged offenders compared with other young people.

Arash Bordar arrived in Australia as an Iranian refugee in 2015.

In the years since then, he says, he has encountered clear prejudice and felt excluded from society.

"And sometimes, even on the train, when they're coming to check your ticket, you are the first person that will be asked. They might not ask everybody. We want to build the country with everyone together to be greater. But when we're facing so many things, with the challenges that we have, it makes us a little bit depressed."

One recommendation to the government is that migrant youths gain access to support services earlier, starting at 12 years old instead of 15.

Advocates such as Ms Acheson say earlier intervention is crucial.

"But when you don't have that, young people feel displaced, they feel devalued, and that's not really good, because young people will look for identity wherever they can find it."

There is no national record of crimes connected to ethnicity, something advocates would like to change.

They say they want the statistics on crime for a true picture of the issue.


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