A possie in Aussie

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.

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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.

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

August 29, 2009

Union asks for ban on foreign students in trade jobs

The Australian Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is concerned that international student students will work for very little or for nothing to get the experience that they need to apply for permanent residency. Calls for review of Australian visa holders work rights

The Union wants the Federal Government to examine the effect visiting students have on the job market.

The ABC quotes union boss Bob Kinnaird:

“In order to qualify for a permanent resident visa, which is what a lot of the 45,000 people on these work visas are really after, they have to establish 12 months’ skilled work experience in the occupation that they’re nominating.

“We [know] from research and our own experience that some overseas graduates are so desperate to get permanent residence that they’re prepared to take low and in some cases to take no wages at all, in order to qualify for the 12 months.

“Overseas students must be treated with respect and dignity, but we are concerned by the rights of Australian workers and young people in particular. Foreign students ‘competing for Australian jobs’

The CFMEU has told a Senate inquiry that all trade occupations should be immediately removed from eligible occupations for overseas student graduates.

Professor Chris Nyland from Melbourne’s Monash University and Professor Simon Marginson from Melbourne University say the benefits of a $13 billion international student industry balances out such labour market concerns.

The honorary president of the Australian Federation of International Students, Wesa Chau, says it would be unfair to prevent overseas students from working in Australia.

But the point is not that the students are being engaged as workers – rather, they are being exploited for low pay or even no pay because of their desperation to get Permanent Residency. Shonky Australian training courses lead to PR, bashings and death. It is this rort that must be stamped out – not legitimate jobs for overseas students.

July 18, 2009

How to make a corrupt immigration system

“If you wanted to make a corrupt system, this is absolutely how you would do it”  –

Managing Director of Australian Immigration Law Services, Karl Konrad, quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald this week about the foreign student situation in Australia.

Mr Konrad, who has a reputation as a whistle blower, said colleges and employers had a dangerous amount of power over their students, who faced deportation if their enrolment was cancelled. Foreign students exploited as slaves

Immigration analyst, Bob Kinnaird, said the previous government was deliberately  “selling an education industry in the guise of a migration policy” when they changed the rules for overseas students from 2001 onwards.

The Sydney Morning Herald provides this chart of how the rules changed to allow the current highly-profitable and exploitative system:

HOW THE RULES CHANGED

– 1992 Private providers allowed to offer training courses.

– 2001 Graduating overseas students allowed to apply for residency without returning home.

– 2005 Trades students required to complete 900 hours of work experience. Many begin to work unpaid; some even pay for their positions. Some training organisations open businesses staffed by their own students.

– 2008 New regulation foreshadowed stipulating work experience must be paid and kept at arm’s length from the trainer. The regulation was never introduced.

– 2009 Priority given to applicants who are sponsored by Australian employers or state governments. Second priority given to those whose skills are listed on a critical skills list, but students of trades such as hairdressing and cooking can obtain an employer-sponsored permanent visa. the demand for placements outstrips the supply

July 16, 2009

Failed your exam? Go to jail!

Guy Healy of the Australian reports that thirty-six overseas students, some as young as 18, are being held in immigration detention for breaching study visa conditions. 36 overseas students in detention

Most of the student visa holders are from China, but others come from India and Pakistan – and India in particular has become sensitive to issues with their student in Australia in recent months. Bashings of Indian students

A student visa can be cancelled for a variety of reasons, including failure to meet course requirements such as “passing subjects” and “attending class”.

A department spokesperson said most of those in detention had overstayed their visas. None had been locked up “simply for breaching attendance requirements or failing to meet minimum course requirements”, although these could be factors in non-compliance with visa conditions.

The Immigration Department, however, insists that none was locked up solely for failing to meet course requirements. The Department claims that student visa holders currently in detention had either ‘posed an unacceptable risk to the community’, or had ‘repeatedly refused to comply with visa conditions’.

I know that Immigration has changed since the bad old Howard days when there was a culture of harshness and flagrant breaches of human rights. Pamela Curr reminded us recently  of the Howard days:

Pamela relates a story of an Indian student who she know who, in 2003, had successfully passed his exams for 3 years when the course at his university changed structure.

“The old course structure was available at another university nearby.

“He transferred his enrolment with permission from both universities.

“His father transferred the funds to pay for a full year upfront as required.

“He then went to the Department of Immigration to notify them of the changes in accordance with his student visa provisions. He was placed in a small interview room, locked in, his passport was taken and one hour later he was escorted down stairs to the basement by two burly officers and put in a van with covered windows. He was told that he had breached his visa conditions by not informing the department BEFORE he changed his enrolment.

“He was sent to Maribyrnong Detention Centre.

“The Department demanded $4,000 dollars and an air ticket to India which departed within 10 days to release him from detention. He left.

“Some students failed exams, some could not pay their fees and some worked an extra hour or two in a week. Overseas students were subject to compliance raids in the middle of the night instigated by anonymous dob-ins. When their passports and visas were found to be in order, the laundry basket was searched for evidence of working hours by over- zealous compliance officers.  www.asrc.org.au

I hope that my impression of a new attitude in the Department of Immigration does extend to compliance section.

July 15, 2009

Punjabi marriage proposal: “I love your English!”

Filed under: Indian students,migration,Permanency — Nayano @ 7:50 am
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Ads in India, and ‘all over’ the Punjab, are offering IELTS or asking for IELTS qualified marriage partners to get Permanent Residency in Australia.

Here is an interesting item from the Punjabi Tribune

Australian Dream III: Contract marriage a tool for going abroad
Mohit Khanna
Tribune News Service Ludhiana, Punjab, July 9.

The brides and grooms all over the state are endeavouring in finding a right match for their Australian dreams.

In case a candidate has cleared his IELTS and is going abroad, the candidate can take along his bride or groom.

Interestingly, travel agents are carrying out extensive research in getting data for their prospective market of the successful IELTS candidates. The agents are getting a fat share in finding “new and legal techniques” for travel to the foreign lands.

IELTS-pass girl or boy is in demand. A majority of these alliances give an upper hand to the girl’s family with the prospective groom promising to bear the entire expenditure.

The marriage is more often a mere contract. The bride and groom part their ways after getting a permanent residency (PR) in Australia.

Darshan Singh, father of an aspirant, wishing to travel to Australia, said “Punjabis are very resourceful. They always find innovative ways to travel abroad. For ages, hundreds of youth have attempted and a large number succeeded in settling abroad. Using IELTS, merely as tool, was not illegal at all. Such brazen desire of moving to foreign shores may seem strange, but, in reality, it is the new-found Punjabi ingenuity that has found newer and legal ways of emigrating to Australia.”

Marriages in this special category are solemnised in a planned manner. “Even the marriage ‘baraatis’ are hired on Rs 500 per person for each marriage. They are hired to prepare a fake marriage album”, he added. “We are five sisters and my three elder sisters got married on contract, the only condition was IELTS certificate. As all of us are not good in English, we hired an agent who arranged girls who appeared on behalf of my sisters in the IELTS examination. Now, my sisters are settled in Australia and are happily working at a food joint and a grocery store, owned by a Punjabi family in Sydney,” said a 22-year-old girl from Noormahal, who is also planning to appear for IELTS.

July 14, 2009

Study in Australia: “a recognised immigration racket”

WA Today features a story about rackets in India where people are paying up to $20,000 for a good result in the International English Language Test System exam (IELTS), ‘contract’ marriages and pay agents to arrange bank documents and loans to satisfy Australian immigration law that demands students have the means to support themselves for the duration of their course.

WA Today says that the “international education sector has turned into a recognised immigration racket”. Australia’s overseas education ‘a scam’

There are 500,000 international students living in Australia generating $14-billion for the economy. Universities on average rely on international students for 15 per cent of their revenue.

Hamish McDonald described the ‘study for PR’ racket perfectly a couple of weeks ago in The racket no one dares name.

“In this racket, tens of thousands of mostly Asian families put up the $30,000 to $50,000 to send young Amit or Mukesh down to Sydney or Melbourne for a course in cooking, basic computer skills (which he probably already has) or other trades designated by Canberra as areas of supply shortages in the economy. After putting in the right number of classroom and practical hours, and keeping out of trouble with police and other authorities, the students can apply for bridging visas and then permanent residency”.

I am personally aware of young people studying courses in which they have no interest or ambition, in order to gain the prize: ‘PR” (permanent residency). Shonky Australian training courses lead to PR, bashings and death

July 4, 2009

Shonky Australian training courses lead to PR, bashings and death

Filed under: 457,457 visas,Indian students,Permanency — Nayano @ 8:23 am
Tags: , , ,

Hamish McDonald writes about The racket no one dares name in today’s Brisbane Times.

The racket? Study in Australia, with the prize of ‘PR’. (Permanent Residency)

I have personal experience of this in the case of children of 457 visa holders desperate for their families not to have to return to China. They research the occupations that DIAC says are needed in Australia and sign up for courses not with the intention to fulfill their dreams, but to win PR for themselves, and they then can sponsor their families. Chinese checked

McDonald reminds us that it used to be the case that foreign students were in fact students, not residents-in-waiting, and that if people who studied here wanted to apply for a further visa once their study was finished, they had to return home to do so. Many were accepted under this scheme.

It was the government of John Howard that introduced the current system so that graduates could apply for residency while still in Australia, and later trade courses were added to the scheme.

Mc Donald says

“Neither education providers or their student customers care about the quality of training, as long as the documentation is in order for the residency application and the cursory inspections are passed.

“In the process, Australia has been cementing a reputation for shonkiness, for making the quick bucks instead of investing in growth, and for not being really interested in India except to make money out of it.”

And now Australia is working hard to tell India that we really really care about their children studying here. New plan aims to stop foreign student attacks

While they are bashed, and disproportionate numbers commit suicide. More suicides uncovered among overseas students

January 5, 2009

‘PR’, the best address

Filed under: Permanency — Nayano @ 7:45 am
Tags: , ,

They call it ‘PR’. I learnt that way to refer to ‘Permanent Residence’  because I talk with a lot of migrants on temporary visas – like the 457 -who talk about nothing else. None ever mistake ‘PR’ for ‘public relations’.

People will do almost anything for it – making them open to scams such as that described in ‘Foreign students exploited’ on 23 December in the Straits Times.

The Immigration Minister recently announced that the Critical Skills list has been changed – causing thousands of students who had signed up for TAFE courses in the ‘old’ critical skills such as commercial cookery to rush to change their enrolments.

There are many students in Australian educational courses who are completing them solely to get PR.

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