The West

Sudanese-born Australian man Gatwech Thoan talks about the election.
Sudanese-born Australian man Gatwech Thoan talks about the election.

You can't sail a boat to Mirrabooka, but if you could, you're unlikely to be welcome, especially if you sailed in through a back port.

Mirrabooka is home to a large population of African and Middle Eastern refugees. A selection of that demographic is jumping on the Tony Abbott ship because of a perception he will stop the boat people.

"Obviously it (immigration) is an issue," says Charles Salah, 30, a Sudanese refugee who has been in WA for five years and believes Mr Abbott will stop the boats.

"I'm voting for the coalition because in Australia we have queues and people jump the queues. They pay other people to get here while there's plenty of other people suffering."

Kuek Mangar, 23, from Sudan, who came here six years ago via Kenya, said "some of the asylum seekers are terrible people" and he felt he would like to see a return to John Howard's solution.

Mirrabooka was once home to a large number of Aboriginals who gave the suburb its name, which roughly translates, appropriately enough, as the Southern Cross, a welcoming sign to Australia for more than 200 years. British migrants and eastern Europeans settled there after World War II, before an influx of Vietnamese, who in the 2006 census comprised 7.9 per cent of the population with 3 per cent from Sudan and 2.5 per cent of Iraqi descent.

Later figures for the suburb are not available, but with 40 per cent of people in 2006 from a non-English speaking background, it is fair to expect the number from the world's hot spots have grown over the past four years.

Tall and striking Gatwech Thoan, 28, proudly displayed a Stop Racism T-shirt. He came to Mirrabooka from Sudan via a refugee camp seven years ago. He lives with his sister and brother. While he supports migration, he said "we need to stop the boats, they are illegal".

Like many of the Sudanese immigrants, his opinion was carefully thought out. Many have an interesting sense of fair play and expressed dislike for Julia Gillard because of the way she displaced Kevin Rudd.

Lucky Lyttle, from Sierra Leone, spent seven years in a refugee camp in Ghana and is now married to Australian-born Serena.

"We're both voting for Tony," the couple said. However, they believe the country should let in more refugees. "We need people here, but we don't need them coming from the boats."

Lucky & Serena Little with their family. Pic: Michael Wilson

The West Australian

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