A possie in Aussie

January 25, 2010

Australians spooked by immigrants, but not by ‘illegals’, Dr Birrell

Our local Sunday tabloid, the Sunday Mail, put ‘Australians are spooked by record high immigration’, reporting on a poll by Galaxy Poll shows Aussies want immigration capped. Sixty-six per cent said that the Federal Government should cap immigration rates. Bob Birrell, an academic who is often called to comment on demographic and migration matters, said the figures show “the tide is turning”.

It may well be. Australia has had unprecedented rates of immigration over the last few years, mostly in the skilled worker and business categories.

The last time that numbers indicating that immigration numbers had gone too far was in 1993 at 67%, up from 56% the year before and dropping progressively to less than 30% in 2004. 1993 was near the last year of resettlement of around 130,000 Vietnamese refugees in Australia under the UNHCR Comprehensive Plan of Action, and soon after the end of the program that accepted nearly 20,000 Chinese as refugees as a result of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Dr Birrell said the economic shock of the global financial crisis, increasing house prices and continuing controversy over illegal immigration would have played a part in changing opinions. (I assume that professor Birrell means ‘undocumented arrivals’ or ‘asylum seekers’ – and surely knows that the term ‘illegal immigrants’ is not only incorrect, but inflammatory to boot).

The figures showing dissatisfaction with immigration don’t support the idea that the public has been ‘spooked’ by ‘illegal immigration’, however.

The numbers expressing concern for rate of immigration dropped from 41% to 33% from 1998 to 2001, while conversely the numbers of arrivals of asylum seekers by boat actually peaked over that period, as they have again peaked over the last 12 months.

It may be that poll respondents believe that increasing numbers of immigrants have caused them financial distress, but another item by David Uren, economics correspondent for the Australian reports that the arrival of almost 300,000 migrants and temporary workers last year

“was one of the biggest contributors to Australia’s superior economic performance during the global recession. Their spending delivered a stimulus at least as big as the government’s first cash splash, and the flexibility of a temporary migrant labour force that now holds about 7.5 per cent of all jobs helped the economy to ride out the downturn with a relatively little rise in unemployment.” Migrant spending a great stimulus to economy during crisis

Here is comment on the Sunday Mail story that made me laugh:

“I’m more worried about Australia being swamped by drop-kick bogans than immigrants”


January 22, 2010

What are your earliest memories of people from other countries, or other ethnicities?

Filed under: Integration,migration,race relations — Nayano @ 3:20 pm
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What is your earliest memory of meeting someone from another country or of a different ethnicity?

I was intrigued lately by a couple of posts on Larvatus Prodeo.

The first one that got me going was ‘What are your earliest political memories? People responded and talked about knowing the names of Prime Ministers and that they were ‘bad’ or ‘good’, of hearing of the death of famous political figures, of the ‘Dismissal’ (the event, not the mini-series!)

This was followed a few days later by ‘What are your earliest Computer memories?’

That got me thinking about my earliest memories of people from other countries.

I remember my best friend in school who was Greek, and discovering olive oil and garlic and all sorts of delicious things at her house – and also discovering the institution of arranged marriage from her mother, who told me that husbands and wives simply learned to love each other in these situations. I also learnt that if a house had its front garden cemented over, there were Greek living there.

I remember the twin girls who wore long blonde plaits and some sort of clothes like German dirndls, who turned up in grade one.

I remember people calling Italians ‘Ities’ quite un-self-consciously – and of course we knew ‘wogs’ and ‘wops’ but were not so casual about those words – until the fabulous Wogs Out of Work loosened us all up.

I remember the boy from Malaysia who came to live in our house and go to high school, with me when we were both in our early teens, and discovering  the magic of prawn crackers cooked from those strange plastic looking chips. (His parents sent him care parcels – there was no-where to buy Chinese ingredients in Adelaide in those days).

My memories are quite cosy – and certainly benign.

Perhaps yours are too – or not? My friend told me that his memories of growing up in Singapore were of discrimination and insults because of his dark skin.

Please share your memories in the comments!

January 20, 2010

Soon we will be fighting for immigrants – any immigrants

The new documentary movie The Demographic Winter (narrated in that ‘prophetic/lone voice of reason’, as one commenter says), explores the coming downfall of humanity caused because we are not reproducing sufficiently to  sustain our economies.

The movie implies that anyone who is not having children is not doing their duty.

Sociological Images, a great blog on Context.org, featured this movie, and pointed out how it is anti-gay, anti any sex outside marriage. It is, indeed, suspected of being propaganda for the Christian Right.

This is, however, a real and important issue. Its effects will overcome the barriers, both actual and ideological, against immigration of the marginalised from the Global South, because within the next few decades all economically-developed countries will be desperate for workers, from anywhere, of any colour and of any skill level. The recent sharp increases in skilled migration to Australia are just the beginning.

Sociological Images, and people who comment on the blog, usually give insightful reports, but this time paid little attention to what I see as the real issue here. Why assume that growth must continue?

Yes, the current wealthy lifestyles of the Global North are dependent on growth. And that means growth in numbers of people. But the world is already over-crowded and dying of the stress.

November 22, 2009

The immigrant journey: a funny music video

Filed under: humor,migration — Nayano @ 7:51 am
Tags: , ,

Finding something funny about migration/refugees/racism is not easy, let alone doing it once a week.

But it is Sunday Funday once more, and so the Possie has searched and searched, and found this music video of the immigration journey of two Mexican migrants in the US.

You may guess from my tone that it is not the best video we have seen – but pretty good.

Until the last minute which gets a bit dumb.

Watch until then – and enjoy!

November 19, 2009

Do you know someone experiencing visa difficulties right now?

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

November 7, 2009

How many would come if we just opened the borders?

Worried about asylum seekers flooding Australia?

What would happen if we just opened our borders to everyone?

Gallup polled people in 135 countries between 2007 and 2009, and found that about 16% of the world’s adults (roughly 700 million) would like to move to another country permanently if they could. 700 Million Worldwide Desire to Migrate Permanently

Nearly one-quarter said that the United States was their desired future residence. Forty-five million adults named the United Kingdom or France as their desired destination, 45 million would like to move to Canada, 35 million would like to go to Spain, 30 million to Saudi Arabia and 25 million would like to relocate to Germany. Twenty five  million named Australia.

If all adults actually moved to their desired destination country today, some countries would suffer tremendous losses and others would be overwhelmed.

Gallup’s Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI) is the estimated number who would like to move to a country, less the estimated number of adults who would like to move out of it, as a proportion of the total adult population.

The higher the resulting positive PNMI value, the larger the potential net population gain.

So there’s your answer – Australia’s population would suddenly increase by two and a half times.

November 2, 2009

Watch this, and be afraid of where the asylum seeker debate could take us

In the United States the immigration bête noire is illegal immigrants (read ‘Mexicans’), while in Australia ours is boatpeople.

9500 Liberty is a new documentary, based on the groundbreaking YouTube channel, 9500liberty, just released in the US. I hope it will make it to Australia. Here’s the synopsis:

“Prince William County, Virginia became ground zero in America’s explosive battle over immigration policy when elected officials adopted a law requiring police officers to question anyone they have “probable cause” to suspect is an undocumented immigrant.

9500 Liberty reveals the startling vulnerability of a local government, targeted by national anti-immigration networks using the Internet to frighten and intimidate lawmakers and citizens.

“Alarmed by a climate of fear and racial division, residents form a resistance using YouTube videos and virtual townhalls, setting up a real-life showdown in the seat of county government.

“The devastating social and economic impact of the “Immigration Resolution” is felt in the lives of real people in homes and in local businesses. But the ferocious fight to adopt and then reverse this policy unfolds inside government chambers, on the streets, and on the Internet. 9500 Liberty provides a front row seat to all three battlegrounds.

John Grisham says that “9500 Liberty makes it clear that when we, as a nation of immigrants debate the immigration issue, we are defining our very identity as Americans”.

For ‘immigration issue’ read ‘asylum seeker issue’, and for ‘Americans’ read ‘Australians’.


November 1, 2009

PhD tales from the Heathrow detention facility

Filed under: detention,humor,humour,migration,racism — Nayano @ 6:52 am
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It’s Sunday Funday!

I regularly have a look at Jorge Cham’s ‘Piled Higher and Deeper’ website, where Jorge cartoons about life and PhD candidates.

It’s funny, or, as Jorge says,

“Results show that persistent exposure to phdcomics dot com (PDC) is mildly correlated to jocular deportment, which suggests improvements in temporal-delay behaviour of bounded activity.”

And this week Jorge cartooned his experience of being detained and very nearly deported from Heathrow airport.

(If you need some seriousness on the same topic, however, see yesterdays’ post on this blog Want child abuse? Night raids? Summary justice? Just ask your Immigration official)

October 31, 2009

Want child abuse? Night raids? Summary justice? Just ask your Immigration official

Actions taken against people suspected of violating migration legislation are decided and applied by decision of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

These ‘compliance’ actions are mostly taken against ‘aliens’ who have no resident status, but as we have seen in recent years, the Australian Immigration Department has also acted against Australian citizens such as Cornelia Rau.

Residents and citizens of Australia are protected by the Rule of Law, and so, once her status was discovered, Rau had to be released immediately and had recourse to compensation.

(Notice that protection against summary actions of the immigration department depends on those actions coming to light.)

When migration officials decide to take action, however, it seems that residency or any other status have little deterrent effect. This blog has reported about the child in immigration detention who was separated from her father and flown to Iran without his permission, Australian immigration officials investigated over child abduction, and overseas students who have been subject to compliance raids in the middle of the night and had their homes searched by immigration officials.  Failed your exam? Go to jail!

It is not only in Australia where immigration is a law unto itself. Human Rights Watch reports that, in 2008, airport police deported or removed one third of the 1,000 unaccompanied migrant children who arrived at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and who were denied entry into France.

“Airport border police place detained children in the same facilities as adults, putting the children at risk of abuse. They routinely threaten children as young as age six with deportation, subject children to strip searches, handcuff them during rides to hospitals, and order intrusive age examinations even when there is no doubt the child is under 18.” France: Abolish Airport Limbo for Migrant Children

There are of course international treaties that proclaim guidelines for the treatment of aliens. Some people refer to these as ‘laws’, but a law is not a law unless it can be enforced, and there is no body that can sanction nations for their treatment of people who are not official residents or citizens.

The wonderful Hannah Arendt more than half a century ago saw that the concept of human rights ‘collapses in ruins’ in the face of the stateless, the refugee, and the asylum seeker. To these we may add ‘those in the hands of immigration departments’.

October 9, 2009

Backpackers: yet another category of exploited migrants

Are backpackers marginalised migrants?

I stretching things too far?

In 2007-08 the number of working holiday-makers young people increased by nearly 14.5% from 2006–07 to 2007–08 (DIAC). The report for 2008-09 will be released at the end of this month. Despite the global economic crisis, it is expected that the number of young people entering Australia on Working Holiday Visas will remain strong. More Young People Applying for Australian Working Holiday Visas

The “417 working visa” enables them to remain for 12 months and to work and earn money to augment the funds they bring with them.  If they wish to stay longer, a second 12-month visa may be granted, but only if the applicant has worked for three months in primary industry.

The second visa can lead to the holy grail of permanent residency in Australia. (While most backpackers are from the UK, Koreans come a close second.)

Mike Pope of Online Opinion claims that there are arrangements between farmers and hostel operators that take advantage of the conditions which apply to the working visa under which most backpackers come to Australia. Backpacker exploitation?

The problem is that there are more backpackers than regional primary industry jobs available.

Mike says that backpacker hostels make “arrangements with local farmers to be the sole supplier of labour to their farm. Backpackers are rarely able to secure employment from other sources since hostels tend to corner the market. They must therefore stay at a hostel to gain employment.

“Those using this as a strategy to attract backpackers to stay at their hostel are able to price the accommodation they offer more highly than they otherwise might do. They can and often do sleep six or more backpackers to a room and charge them as much as $20 each per night for the privilege.

Mike claims that it is not only hostels which take advantage of backpackers in this way. Some farmers hire hostel-provided workers under absolute minimum conditions.

“Fruit and vegetable picking is often undertaken in hot conditions in relatively remote open fields. The farmer may provide a shade area, toilet facilities and drinking water. Many do not. Any complaint can be (and is) met with an invitation to find work elsewhere.” (See Union asks for ban on foreign students in trade jobs)

I’ll tell you the moral of this story: the dream of permanent residency combined with  a lack of rights opens the way for exploitation.

Yes, backpackers are marginalised migrants.

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