Survey: Malaysian immigrants face most racial abuse in Australia

Tourists take photographs as they stand in front of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge on a hazy day October 21, 2013.The Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping of Social Cohesion 2013 survey found that 45 per cent of immigrants born in Malaysia had experienced 'discrimination because of skin colour, ethnic origin or religion' in their adoptive country. — Reuters pic
Tourists take photographs as they stand in front of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge on a hazy day October 21, 2013.The Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping of Social Cohesion 2013 survey found that 45 per cent of immigrants born in Malaysia had experienced 'discrimination because of skin colour, ethnic origin or religion' in their adoptive country. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 — Malaysian-born immigrants suffered the highest rate of discrimination in Australia this year, according to an annual survey that focuses on social cohesion in the Land Down Under.

The Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping of Social Cohesion 2013 survey found that 45 per cent of immigrants born in Malaysia had experienced “discrimination because of skin colour, ethnic origin or religion” in their adoptive country.

Also having experienced high levels of discrimination were immigrants from India and Sri Lanka (42 per cent), Singapore (41 per cent), Indonesia (39 per cent) and China and Hong Kong (39 per cent).

The survey, which started in 2007, also recorded the highest level of racial discrimination across the board this year at 19 per cent, an increase of seven percentage points from the previous year.

“A major change in the 2013 survey was the marked increase in the reported experience in discrimination. This is an issue that has received considerable attention in the print and electronic media, particularly cases of racist abuse in public places,” read the survey, which was a joint effort between the foundation and Monash University.

The foundation, which was established in 2001 to promote social cohesion in Australia, also found that immigrants aged between 18 and 24, men, those from non-English speaking backgrounds, of non-Christian faith groups, and those who live in urban areas with high concentration of immigrants, reported the highest rates of discrimination.

Survey respondents at the same time showed increased polarisation on the issue of asylum seekers that arrive by boat, with less than one-in-five respondents favouring eligibility for permanent residency.

Just 18 per cent were agreeable to permanent residency for asylum seekers, while 33 per cent preferred that the boats be turned back to their country of origin.

Only a year earlier, 23 per cent backed permanent residency while 26 per cent wanted the boats to be turned back.

The report cited adverse political and media discussion of boat arrivals as contributing to the strong negative sentiments among survey respondents, many of whom consider asylum seekers arriving by boats as illegal immigrants.

However, the survey found that less than five per cent of respondents felt animosity against immigrants from English speaking countries and continental Europe and less than 15 per cent towards Asian immigrants. 

Middle Eastern immigrants are least liked, with close to 25 per cent or one-in-four respondents having “negative feelings” towards them.

And despite the recorded rise in racial discrimination, 84 per cent of the survey respondents  believed that multi-culturalism has been good for Australia.

“More than seven out of ten respondents agreed that multi-culturalism ‘benefits the economic development of Australia’ (75 per cent) and ‘encourages immigrants to become part of Australian society (71 per cent).

“Close to six out of ten respondents agreed that multi-culturalism strengthens the Australian way of life (60 per cent) and gives immigrants the same opportunities as the Australian born (58 per cent),” the report said.