African leaders condemn proposed deportation of VIC youth offenders

Matthew Guy Victoria parliment
Victorian opposition leader Matthew Guy. Photo: David Hewison, Bigstock

Sudanese community leaders in Victoria have labelled recent suggestions to deport youth offenders as “death sentences”. This follows proposals to crack down on a recent wave of teen gang violence in Melbourne.

Recent remarks by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton referred to ‘African gangs’ as having scared Melbourne residents into staying home for fear of being victimised. These comments have created a divide in the Victorian community about how to tackle the problem of youth gang activity with many of the offenders being of African descent.

Dutton said he was considering strengthening laws in the face of the rise of youth crime by automatically cancelling the visas of offenders and deporting migrants who cause serious injury.

The changes to the law were initially brought forward by a parliamentary committee led by Victorian Liberal member Jason Wood and are backed by the current Opposition Leader Matthew Guy. Guy’s election campaign to unseat the current Labor government is heavily centred around improvements to law and order.

In response to these proposals African community leaders have cautioned that this type of crackdown is both out of touch and ultimately dangerous. They pointed out that many of the youth offenders were born in Australia and those who weren’t would be deported to war-torn countries where their chances of survival were slim.

South Sudanese Community Association spokesperson Kot Monoah told the parliamentary committee that cancelling the young offenders visas would “send them to misery”. Monoah pointed out that he believed that these youths had “potential to be rehabilitated” and that deporting them was effectively a death sentence.

Richard Deng, a fellow African community leader, echoed Monoah’s opinion and called on the federal government to cease its political agenda, instead working with Victoria and the police to solve the issue.

Richard Deng is well-known in the Victorian African community and last year helped to establish a volunteer team to prevent crime via engagement with troubled Sudanese youth in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

This volunteer team has slowly expanded with plans for to recruit even more so that more areas of Melbourne can be attended to.

Mr Deng openly acknowledged that there is a youth crisis in the Victorian African community but added that “simply deporting people is out of touch”.

The maintenance of law and order has remained a long-time issue for the Andrews Labor government. Whilst most offenders have been Australian adults a number of high profile cases of youth crime have put the spotlight on the African community.

With a Victorian state election coming this November the Liberal party has cited the issue of law and order as a reason that the current premier Daniel Andrews is a soft touch. Labor members have retaliated against the Coalition federal government by accusing them of cutting funding to migrant services and not doing enough to tackle the underlying cause of crime.