Refugees scared of citizenship test

9 News – © NineMSN

29 April 2008

A fear of failing Australia’s citizenship test is stopping refugees from applying to become citizens, a Victorian ethnic group says.

Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria chairman Sam Afra said refugees, who often had little or no education, feared failing the test and this stopped them from seeking citizenship.

“There are a lot of people we have spoken with who were afraid of going to the test,” Mr Afra said.

“It’s created a barrier with these types of people. They’ve been traumatised, never had education or been to school and the fear of failure is a big issue”.

“The people feel `why are they testing us, if they didn’t want us, why did they bring us here?'”

His comments came after the federal government on Monday announced it would review the citizenship test, as results show refugee groups had higher fail rates than others doing the test.

The government also said there were fears the level of English used in the test had “crept up” to native speaker level, rather than the basic level supposed to be used.

Mr Afra said in refugee groups such as Iraqi and Sudanese, the fail rates were up to 20 per cent, compared to 5 per cent fail rates overall.

He said it was unrealistic to expect one test could fit all.

“If you lived in a refugee camp for the last five or six years, you didn’t have school, you went through trauma, all these wars, problems, how do you expect people who come from these areas, who have never had English or didn’t have education in general, to come straight away and … be able to get up that to that level?” he said.

Since the test was introduced last October, 1,286 people failed it at their first attempt.

Mr Afra said the refugees who failed their first attempt would probably never go for the test again and so never become citizens.

He welcomed the government’s review of the test and said there should be concessions for refugee groups who came from “less fortunate” backgrounds, or these people would remain stateless.

“We are not saying don’t do the test because a lot of people come from better educated, calmer areas, no wars,” he said.

“But if you take the big extremes, there is a big gap.”