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Acclaimed social researcher Professor Stephen Castles says migrants are being used as scapegoats by politicians as they exploit their constituents’ increased feeling of vulnerability and frustration with infrastructure.

Speaking yesterday at the International Metropolis Conference, held in Sydney this week, Professor Castles said, “While 28 per cent of our population comes from overseas, it’s always been that the latest group is to blame for the problems we face on the day.

“In the ’50s it was the Italians and Greeks, in the ’60s it was the Vietnamese who were blamed for crime, the drug trade and so on.”

Professor Castles’ message was timely as yesterday the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced that, due to concerns about population expansion, she wanted the state to return to “Howard-era immigration levels”, which would mean halving the state’s migrant intake.

She appointed a three-member panel to develop a NSW population policy to take to the federal government next year.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that the current high rates of population growth are putting even more pressure on our infrastructure," she said.

As reported in The Guardian (October 31, 2018), permanent arrivals in Australia are the same as in the time under Prime Minister John Howard, however net overseas migrant arrivals have been driven by students, tourists and skilled migrants.

On the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, Professor Castles said that, while those groups received a lot of attention, they only constituted a very small part of Australia’s intake; the largest part was from skilled migration, people with permission to come here, work and stay permanently.

“We have to change the perception that economic migration is good and persecuted migration is bad — it is terribly short-sighted. Across the world, there are 30,000 people a day who must leave their homes to seek asylum, and Australia only takes roughly 15,000 people a year.

“Refugees have made a huge contribution to economy and society, and it isn’t fair not to recognise that.

“Australia used to be a leader in human rights, and now we have become a leader in violating human rights.”

The International Metropolis Conference, Sydney is the largest migration and multicultural event in the world. It continues until Friday, November 2.

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