A possie in Aussie

January 24, 2009

Immigrant underclass: workers of the world need to unite

Filed under: Immigrant workers — Nayano @ 8:30 am
Tags: , ,

In the early 2000s I assisted Afghan Hazaras who had arrived by boat and claimed asylum in Australia – and even though the Australian government found that they were ‘genuine’ refugees under Australia’s interpretation of the UN Refugee Convention, they were given visas that severely restricted their rights, in comparison with other refugees in Australia who have all the usual rights of residents. I witnessed firsthand the misery of these restrictions. (This visa category was abolished last year by the Rudd government).

In the last three years began to work with mainland Chinese who have been sponsored to work here on 457 (Temporary Skilled Migration) visas. There are many similarities between them and the Afghan Hazaras.

Like the Hazaras they are all in full time work and pay full taxes. Unlike other refugees and workers on permanent visas, they receive no government benefits in return.

The most shocking of these restrictions (for Australians, that is, who take the excellent Medicare and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for granted) is that they must pay full price for all health care, medicines and health insurance. They are not entitled to the 510 hours of free English tuition that all other migrants form non-English speaking backgrounds get, cannot access the government’s network of free translation and interpreting, cannot get child-care or any other government subsidy, and although their children can attend government primary and secondary schools for free, if they wish to do any tertiary education they must pay full international student rates.

The lack of English lessons cripples the attempts that they and many Australians make to communicate. They are crippled financially when their health fails.

They are the new Australian underclass

I think Australia needs a National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights which is committed to expanding the rights of all immigrants and refugees, regardless of immigration status.

As the blogger at Arizona Desert Lamp says (commenting on immigrant workers in the US, but the same is just as true here):

“Immigration has always been a subject of heated debate.  We have accused immigrants of taking away American jobs, increasing crime, and fundamentally changing our way of life.  Economists have long argued the opposite – that immigrants by taking jobs U.S. workers are unwilling or unable to do, make us a more productive and competitive nation.  Immigrants come here to make a life for themselves and their families.  They work hard, pay taxes, and try to fit in.”



  1. […] What’s a ‘possie’? Immigrant underclass: workers of the world need to unite […]

    Pingback by Are you classy? Migrate here to find out « A possie in Aussie — January 25, 2009 @ 9:09 am | Reply

  2. i agree with you

    Comment by abbottabad — February 7, 2009 @ 10:53 pm | Reply

  3. […] Read more on this issue here. […]

    Pingback by Refugee or migrant? « A possie in Aussie — February 11, 2009 @ 10:50 am | Reply

  4. […] Possie in Aussie had a post about the need for migrant workers to unite – and it is promising to see unions speaking up to stop uninformed […]

    Pingback by Unions support immigrant workers « A possie in Aussie — February 18, 2009 @ 8:21 am | Reply

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