Sunday, September 18, 2011

Muslim immigrants to Britain have children for the welfare benefits, says Asian peer

The UK's first female Asian peer has used a debate in the Lords to criticise Pakistani and Bangladeshi families for having too many children.

Baroness Flather suggested people in some minority communities had a large number of children in order to be able to claim more benefits. The peer, born in Lahore before the partition of India, said the issue did not apply to families of Indian origin.

The cross-bencher said benefit cuts could help to discourage extra births.

Baroness Flather, speaking during a debate on the government's welfare changes, said: "The minority communities in this country, particularly the Pakistanis and the Bangladeshis have a very large number of children and the attraction is the large number of benefits that follow the child.

"Nobody likes to accept that, nobody likes to talk about it because it is supposed to be very politically incorrect."

The 67-year-old said that immigrant families must stop having lots of children "as a means of improving the amount of money they receive or getting a bigger house."

Indians 'different'

The former Tory peer also claimed Indian families had a different mentality to Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in the UK.

"Indians have fallen into the pattern here," she told peers. "They do not have large families because they are like the Jews of old. They want their children to be educated.

"This is the other problem - there is no emphasis on education in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi families."

Baroness Flather called for a gradual reduction in benefits in order to discourage large families and suggested payments should be reduced after a couple's first two children.

She said: "I really feel that for the first two children there should be a full raft of benefits, for the third child three-quarters and for the fourth child a half."

Baroness Flather's comments were not well-received by Labour work and pensions spokesman Lord McKenzie.

Concluding the argument for the opposition, he told the Lords: "I had not expected the treatise on the family sizes of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities and hope I don't again."

Welfare reform minister Lord Freud, replying to the debate, did not refer to Lady Flather's comments.

The Welfare Reform Bill is the biggest shake-up of the benefits system for 60 years. A universal payment to replace income-related work-based benefits, such as child tax credit, is planned, as are stricter rules for people losing their benefits if they refuse a job.


Tough "asylum seeker" laws proposed by Australia's Leftist government

Conservatives dubious

Under the legislation the Immigration Minister could send asylum seekers to a third country of his choice.

Legal experts say they are concerned the draft legislation allowing asylum seekers to be processed offshore may be structured so it cannot be challenged in court.

The proposed changes to the Migration Act were announced on Friday night and have drawn strong criticism from the Opposition, the Greens and human rights advocates. Under the changes, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen would have broad powers to send refugees to a third country for processing if he can prove to Parliament that it is in the public interest.

The Government needs the changes to be allowed in order to resurrect the so-called Malaysian solution which was scuttled in the High Court last month.

Mr Bowen has stood by the draft legislation even after being heckled and chased by protesters at a press conference in Sydney on Saturday.

Among those against the changes are legal experts, who say the legislation would shred Australia's obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention. Australian Lawyers Alliance president Greg Barns says he is concerned Mr Bowen will include a clause in the legislation that would mean the powers cannot be challenged in court. "Which means that it will say that a decision of the Minister is not appealable in any court of law in Australia," he said. "In other words, it'll just leave it to the Minister effectively to play God, with people's lives."

But he says even if that is the case the laws may still be open to challenge as Australia has obligations under international human rights conventions. "It may be that this particular clause is so offensive through the rule of law that the courts might find creative ways of dealing with it," he said.

David Manne, the lawyer who bought the landmark case to the High Court, says the draft changes would destroy human rights safeguards for asylum seekers. "These proposals go well beyond what the Government said the problem was that it wanted to fix after the High Court decision," he said.

"It's a matter of profound concern that they're seeking to strip the Act of key protections that the Minister was required to turn his mind to in deciding whether it was safe to expel someone
to a particular place; requirements that the Parliament agreed to a decade ago."

The draft legislation says it is for the Immigration Minister to decide which countries should be designated as offshore processing countries and the rules of natural justice would no longer apply. All the Minister would have to do is tell Parliament which country he plans to send asylum seekers to and why it is in the public interest.

The Government proposes the Minister gives Parliament a copy of any written agreement between Australia and the third country, but the agreement would not have to be binding.

Despite being mobbed by about 40 protesters shouting "shame Bowen, shame", Mr Bowen has stood by the proposal. "The government of the day should have the capacity to introduce its policies, to be accountable to parliament to do so. That's what our legislation proposes," he said. "As I've said, if there are constructive suggestions as to that legislation, we'll be happy to work those through in good faith, with people proposing them in good faith."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was briefed on the changes on Friday night and Mr Bowen has urged him to support the Government's plans. Mr Abbott so far appears unlikely to back the move, saying it would remove human rights protections, resulting in a system of "offshore dumping". "My initial response and that of my senior colleagues is that the draft legislation strips out protections that the Howard government thought was necessary," Mr Abbott said.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has invited Mr Abbott to meet her on Monday to discuss offshore processing, saying despite their policy differences it is important to work towards "bipartisan
action" to restore a government's right to determine border protection policy.


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