A possie in Aussie

February 13, 2010

Canada looks set to win the brain drain from India with fast track citizenship

Canada is bidding for the ‘brains’ that are now draining out of Australia and Britain.

Australia has made things harder for foreign students to get PR (permanent residency) through their studies by ending rorts that used study simply as a visa opportunity and encouraging the growth of shonky ‘colleges’ and shady ‘education agents’. International students and temporary workers suffer because of Australian immigration mess

This, along with the recent focus on attacks on Indian students, is drastically reducing student visa applications to Australia. The ‘Indian Issue’ is creating racism

Students from Northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal are also now facing a temporary ban on entry to Britain, which feared foul play after it faced an alarming increase in student visa applications.

Taking the opportunity, the province of Quebec is giving out “certificates of selection” to foreign students who graduate from universities there, putting them on a very fast-track to Canadian citizenship. Quebec Fast-Tracks Citizenship for Foreign Students . Any student who secures a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from any university in Quebec will in effect be awarded citizenship after undergoing security and health checks.

The premier of the province, Jean Charest, told Times of India that

“Our vision is that of an open society. Globalisation is not just about economy and numbers; we need to put a human face to it.’’

This ‘globalised human face’ is not just about people, but about exam scores and qualifications.

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February 11, 2010

Don’t be afraid of asylum seekers: mammoths are the real worry!

People like to be scared. Otherwise how would ghost trains and roller coasters make money?

John Humphries takes this one step further to explain why immigrant issues are such big vote winner. The problem with democracy Humphries’ idea is that fear is hardwired into our brains – otherwise we would have all ended up as mammoth fodder – and as the big risks, like large wild animals, disappear from everyday life, we transfer the fear to new and less serious problems.

Humphries claims that because ‘fear’ is hardwired into our brains, as the really big problems disappear, we shift our fear onto new, less-serious, problems. Effectively, we are becoming risk-averse to more and less dangerous things.

Humphries quotes the thesis of Bryan Caplan’s book, The Myth of the Rational Voter, that most  people are not informed about politics, political philosophy or public policy, but vote instead from their ‘preferred beliefs’. Caplan outlines four areas where the average voter gets politics wrong, including “overly-negative impressions about the impact of foreigners”.

It makes sense to me that ‘fear’ can be free-floating, that is, just ‘there’ until it finds something to land on and to be afraid of. And that is why I feel very strongly about public discourse – those of us who speak publically, politicians, journalists, and even bloggers with a handful of readers like me, have a responsibility not to offer ‘straw mammoths’ as a landing pad for fears (anyone care to illustrate that mixed metaphor?), and not to turn one mammoth into a herd.

But in recent weeks I have discovered how difficult this can be. Partisans interpret careful speech as a vote for the other side. And then I get sucked into discussing the mammoth as if it really exists.

Don't be afraid: it's in a cage

January 31, 2010

How are racists made?

How are racists made? Through stereotypes.

How are stereotypes made? Through:

Reducing complex information to one idea, and

Using one example to represent a pattern

For example, a Korean backpacker is killed in Australia.

Here are a few patterns of thought that could be elicited by this small piece of information:

Koreans are violent people

Australia is a violent place

Backpackers are easy targets

Where do the patterns come from? In most cases the media.

But it is not that the media is conspiring to create harmful stereotypes. It’s just that they are perpetually in the hunt for a ‘story’.

One Korean backpacker killed would probably feature only in state news, and not on the front page, unless it’s a very slow news period, or the killing was macabre.

Two backpackers killed in close succession is a ‘bigger’ story, and gives writers more to work with, i.e. ‘Is this a pattern?’ ‘What is it with backpackers/ Koreans anyway?’ ‘Are we a violent state?’ and so on.

The Korean Association speaks out – even better story opportunities.

From now on, any violence involving a Korean is reported, even minor incidents. And no matter whether the numbers of violent incidents hasn’t increased, or have even decreased, it will seem as if there are more and more incidents, just because they are being reported.

The Korean government speaks out? Even better story. Now we are on the front page, not only in Australia, but in Korea, and possibly in most of Asia.

If ‘Australians are racist towards Koreans’ hasn’t been thrown into the mix, it certainly will be now.

(And if Australians hadn’t thought of being racist towards Koreans before now – they may feel left out ;-))

And if Koreans have never before thought of Australians as racist – they will now.

This cycle of stereotyping is completed.

And for fun – here is a stereotyping test:

January 10, 2010

Why Indian students are attacked in Australia: Having a go, part 1.

The murder of Nitin Garg has inflamed the debate about violence against Indian students in Australia. Nitin was  stabbed to death last week just before starting work as night manager at a Hungry Jack’s store in West Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne. (see also Yet another attack on Indians in Australia)

Then Jaspreet Singh, 29, was attacked in Melbourne’s north-west yesterday. He had come home from a dinner party with his wife in the early hours of the morning and was parking his car when four men poured fluid over him and set him alight.

The Indian Ministry of External affairs is urging journalists to show the utmost restraint in covering the story. Slain Indian student’s body arrives home

The Ministry says just what I have been worrying about: that irresponsible reporting could aggravate the situation and have a bearing on bi-lateral relations.

It is important that we debate what has happened, so I would like to have a go at looking at the situation as dispassionately as possible. Please let me know how I do!

1. Every society that has a mixture of ethnicities has racist incidents, including Australia. Racist incidents are a form of bullying, and there always have been and always will be people who bully others.

2. Australia is not racist. As far as I can see there is no officially condoned discrimination on the grounds of race, there are laws against any types of discrimination, and governments make positive efforts to encourage multicultural harmony.

3. Australians are not racist. I don’t like to apply that term to anyone, because I don’t think it’s useful. It’s more useful; (and less inflammatory) to talk about racially motivated behaviour.

In addition, from all the studies I have read, there seems to be less of this behaviour in Australia than most other countries.

4. The majority of these crimes appear to have occurred in Melbourne, in suburbs in high crime areas where ‘drugs, mental illness and poverty’ are the issue, late at night. International students in general must work to support themselves, and take after-hours jobs, and travel alone. They live in high crime areas because housing is cheaper. The Indian students I have seen look anything but ‘tough’.

Darkness + high crime area+ single person alone+ ‘looks middle class, not tough’.

Add in the factor that guys who hang out in groups at night looking for targets are probably people who will ‘have a go’ about anything.

Result: opportunistic crime plus racial abuse, but not ‘racism’.

The greatest worry here are the crimes, and the answer is better policing, not debating whether the crimes were racist or not.

In Part 2. I will have a go at how we should be conducting this important debate.

December 16, 2009

The media, not the Immigration Department, panics international students PR

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald Visa review may ‘spark panic’ is, surprise surprise (!) itself sparking panic among international students in Australia.

Google that headline, and the majority of hits are in Chinese –reflecting the numbers of Chinese students in Australia who came here in the hope and expectation of gaining permanent residency at the end of their studies.

The SMH article leads with this:

“TENS of thousands of overseas students studying expensive courses in Australia in the hope of securing permanent residency could be sent home empty-handed under changes being considered by the Federal Government.

“The Herald has obtained a document prepared by the Immigration Department recommending changes ”in the relationship between the lodgement of an application and the legal obligation to grant a visa”.

In other words, the media is again inciting a panic where the factual basis is very thin. ‘A change in the relationship’ could mean almost anything, and, as the Herald article says, way down in the body of the text:

“A spokesman for the department said the document was part of a consultation process and no decision would be made on the changes until next year.”

Note: ‘Consultation’ means consultation. Not decision.

The Interim Report of the Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students Act 2000 that was conducted by Bruce Baird of the review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 has recently been released, and will be part of the consultation. Baird doesn’t suggest that the link between studying and migration be broken or even weakened, and for any changes to be  grandfathered where possible.

The Senate Committee Report into the Welfare of International Students, which will also be consulted, gives the ‘Committee view’ as

2.24     The committee accepts the evidence that over time a perception has developed that a student visa may provide an automatic pathway to permanent residency, despite this not being the case. This perception has in turn been exploited by some education agents and providers who have used the perception of permanent residency to recruit students and then provide them with inadequate education or training.

2.25      The committee endorses steps that have been taken to ensure that international students coming to Australia to study are fully cognisant of the rules that apply to them and make it clear that separate and distinct processes are involved and that the requirements for permanent residency visas change from time to time in response to the requirements of the labour market.

2.26      In most cases, exploitation starts overseas with expectations fuelled by unscrupulous education agents advertising courses solely as a means to permanent residency. Regulation of providers and quality are discussed in chapter four and agents are discussed in more detail in chapter five.

December 15, 2009

Unanimous: international students need better conditions

The Senate Committee Report ‘Inquiry Welfare of International Students’ has been released.  The report does not directly address the issue of attacks on students,  and does not agree with suggestions that many of the attacks on Indian students were racially motivated, but makes recommendations that address student safety through initiatives that include  improved information about rights and supports available.

As Andrew Bartlett points out, the report is unanimous across all the political parties represented, and while this unanimity does sacrifice some strength of opinion, it also means that it will be harder for the government to ignore the findings. Senate committee reports on international students issue

A few findings:

More flexibility in number of hours available to work each week (currently limited to 20) and a less draconian response when the rule is broken (if a student is caught working more than this in a week, they are likely to have their visa cancelled, even if it is a one-off)

Concessions to be available for international students on public transport

Develop a comparative information tool on education providers. This information tool should differentiate between the capacity of providers by comparing such things as the level and quality of support services available to students.

November 19, 2009

Do you know someone experiencing visa difficulties right now?

Filed under: Foreign Students,migration,PR,visas — Nayano @ 12:15 pm
Tags: , ,

I am at the International Conference on Migration, Citizenship and Intercultural Relations in Melbourne at the moment.

Just heard a great lecture from Stephen Castles – much to think about! Castles predicts that by 2050 the birth rate will have decreased in the Global South to the level of that now in the Global North.

Castles asked the audience a  question I have heard asked once or twice before – but it is still a good one: ‘raise  your hand if you were born in Australia’.

Answer for this audience – about one quarter.

My mind wandered (as it usually does, even in a lecture as good as Castles’) and I thought of a question I would like to ask Australian audiences:

‘How many of you have a friend or relative experiencing visa difficulties right now?’

My answer: 2 close relatives, one very close friend, and many other friends.

How about you?

October 10, 2009

Why do Indians want permanent residency in Australia?

More than 75,000 Indian students were undertaking courses in Australia last year, the second largest number of foreigners in Australian colleges and universities.

Why are they coming here from India?

Geoff Maslen at Crikey says:

“Almost 60% of India’s 1.15 billion people are under the age of 25 yet there are only places for 7% of college-age students in post-secondary school institutions.”

The majority now in Australia are in private vocational education colleges “where the main aim on completion appears to be permanent residency (PR)”.

So, why do they want PR in Australia so badly?

A 2006 study asked that question and found that Indian students here are in three main groups:

  1. Those who originally came to study, discovered that they were part of a ‘culture of migration’ and slowly ‘longed’ to stay
  2. Student loans are disproportionate to salaries in India
  3. But a huge group came for PR alone – for a better lifestyle, clean air, good infrastructure, safer society, better public facilities, better job opportunities. These students cannot see themselves profiting from new opportunities being created in India. In addition, having a family member abroad is prestigious.

September 17, 2009

Yet another attack on Indians in Australia

A group of up to 70 people racial abused and beat a group of four Indian men in Victoria last weekend.  One of the men suffered a broken nose and jaw, and at least two of the victims were treated in hospital for facial injuries.

Police arrested and interviewed four men following the attack, then released them without charge.

Victorian police have been accused of a cover-up, since they did not release a statement about the attack until after the Times of India reported that members of Melbourne’s Indian community had been “brutally bashed” by 70 locals.

The Australian reports Gautam Gupta of the Federation of Indian Students of Australia said that the police were trying to sweep the issue under the carpet.

“The whole system is try to keep these things under cover,” Mr Gupta told The Australian. Victorian police face pressure over Indian assault

Victorian Premier John Brumby is flying to India next Monday and says the latest incident will make his mission to repair damaged relations between Australia and India all the more difficult.

Also see In India Gillard bears gifts, Crean wags a finger; in Australia Indian students march

Watch Indian TV report the issue below:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Yet another attack on Indians in Aust…“, posted with vodpod

September 3, 2009

In India Gillard bears gifts, Crean wags a finger; in Australia Indian students march

Thousands of overseas students marched in Sydney and Melbourne yesterday, watched by by-standers, riot police and an international television audience.

Indian and Chinese media followed the marches across Australia, airing the grievances international students have over safety, accommodation, visas, shonky institutions and travel concessions. Denial of equal rights brings students to the streets

Meanwhile, Julia Gillard is in India, on what Amanda Hodge of the Australian calls a five-day Indian charm offensive. Gillard announced a 300,000 rupee ($7300) donation for the purchase of school books to the ASHA foundation, as she ‘tiptoed her way good-naturedly over open sewers and smiled at bare-footed urchins’.

Additionally, the Australian Deputy Prime Minister launched a new Australia India Institute, and a collaborative online teaching program at the Indira Gandhi National Open University. Gillard bears gifts for slum-dwellers.

The Australian Treasurer is also in India, but was somewhat less charming than Ms Gillard.

“Let’s be clear, we are offering a quality education in a safe environment,” Mr Crean said yesterday. “The quality of our education is what we are promoting, not the visa attached to it.

“For this to succeed, we also need the co-operation of the Indian government. The fact that politicians in both countries have been forced to focus on the issue improves the odds of coming up with a better system.” ‘We’re selling education, not visas’

Rupakjyoti Bora at Online Opinion, who formerly lived in Australia, recommended pre-departure briefing for Indian students.

“Indian students should also make sure they undertake proper enquiries before going to Australia to pursue courses at some of the lesser-known universities and institutes.

Some of the recent attacks may well be racial in nature, but such incidents have happened in other countries too, including India (remember some spectators in India taunting Andrew Symonds, or for that matter targeting Lewis Hamilton?). It would therefore be unwise to brand Australia as a racist country. There will always be some bad apples (in both Australia and India), but they should not be allowed to spoil the barrel.” Rebuilding trust between Australia and India

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