Refugees, elderly, likely most affected by citizenship changes

SBS World News Radio: People and communities around Australia are trying to come to terms with changes to Australia's citizenship requirements, with many now facing a much longer wait for citizenship than they were expecting.

Refugees, elderly, likely most affected by citizenship changes

Refugees, elderly, likely most affected by citizenship changes Source: AAP

The Refugee Council is warning the Turnbull Government's toughening of the citizenship test will have a disproportionate impact on refugees and the elderly.

The Council's CEO, Paul Power, says that's because older people will struggle to study for the more difficult English language test, as will those who have fled violence in their home countries.

"Our concern is that some of the people who have come to Australia under the Australian government's refugee resettlement program have the most to lose from the changes, particularly older adults who have come as refugees in recent years, including people coming now from Syria, from Iraq, and also in recent years from Bhutan."

Mr Power says refugees often struggle with English when they first arrive, but have a deep commitment to Australian civic values.

"The government seems to be falsely equating fluency in English language with committment to Australia and what we've seen over the generations has been that people who've come to Australia as refugees, whether or not they're fully fluent in English, greatly value the freedom and democracy that Australia provides. People who've lost the effective citizenship of their country, or people who are stateless, really value citizenship - and they actually understand what freedom and democracy means at a level that people born in Australia don't quite fully understand."

One Iranian refugee in Western Sydney tells SBS she struggles with English herself.

But she doesn't mind the test getting harder.

"I think language is very important. That's what I think but i know a lot of poeple, they're struggling to learn language. I'm one of them, I'm still struggling to learn language but still language is very important to getting a job, or communicating with the people living here."

The changes are not only affecting those who speak English as a second or third language.

Helen Spoor is a British woman who's only just applied for permanent residency.

Under the new rules, she will need to wait an extra three years before she can apply for citizenship.

"It's actually about people being able to plan their lives. I've been here for 4.5 years, I've worked here the whole time, I pay taxes, I met my husband, who I married, who's now become a citizen. It's hard to plan a future, whether that's a family or whatever it is when you're constantly waiting and on another visa."

The tougher citizenship test will also include questions on Australian values, with some designed to pick up on a tendency for violent religious extremism.

But Paul Power says most would-be terrorists are ideological young men who would have no trouble lying in the test.

"It will be clear to people, if they have any inclinations towards extremism or whatever, how to answer any questions that come up. It's a crazy notion that some citizenship test will result in someone accidentally admitting that they're an extremist."



3 min read
Published 20 April 2017 at 7:00pm
By James Elton-Pym
Source: SBS