A possie in Aussie

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 27, 2010

Richard Branson does not learn the truth about refugees

Besides such criticisms of the Run as “insensitive,” “dehumanizing,” or “disrespectful” (not to mention “ludicrous”) And Now For Something Completely Different: Davos Features “Refugee Run”, the Refugee Run at the Davos World Economic Forum also perpetuated myths about refugees.


Have a look at Richard Branson experiencing the  Run (below).

In the ‘Run’ the participants face an attack from rebels, a ‘mine field’, border corruption, language incapacity, black-marketeering and refugee camp survival. his video is of

It looks like it was a worthwhile experience – except that it reinforced a tragic misconception about refugees today.

Displaced people are increasingly likely to be in urban areas rather than camps, now referred to as ‘urban refugees’. That is, there are millions who are not ‘refugees’ recognised by the Refugee Convention, but who are living lives on the run wherever they can.

In addition, undocumented migrants from poorer nations often use the same trafficking channels as asylum seekers, and resort to claiming asylum in countries of the Global North the hope of being permitted to stay.

In the past, displaced people living in camps or settlements were considered to be prima facie refugees, and this conceptualisation still drives much public and policy discourse. The public is confused by the mixture of refugees and other migrants, and this contributes to xenophobia.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Refugee Run At World Economic Forum“, posted with vodpod

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 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 29, 2009

Something you don’t want to do? Get a marginalised migrant

Filed under: humor,humour,Immigrant workers — Nayano @ 7:43 am
Tags: , , ,

Happy Sunday Funday!
What would we do without marginalised migrants to do our dirty work?

(From KnoxNews.com)

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.

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.

October 5, 2009

Pass the IELTS? Do not learn English if you want a visa

Why do so many international students have problems with the level of English language they need for their studies?

Why do so many people on skilled visas not get jobs in Australia, even though they are highly qualified?

Because it is possible to pass the IELTS at a high level with barely a word of English.

International students and skilled migrants are required to have high-level IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores to get Australian visas.

In a submission to the senate inquiry into international student conditions, the University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association advocacy service argues that more funding should be allocated to language support for international students and that it is the responsibility of the University to provide this support.

In another submission, N. K. Aggarwal raises the question “do the students really come to Australia to study or simply use the Governments’ permitted method to attain permanent residence? Nearly 95 % of the overseas students attending vocational courses, settle down in Australia permanently”.

Study and employment are indeed secondary goals for many, whose primary aim is PR (permanent residency).

It is because of the PR Holy Grail that many scams have developed, including the one I was made privy to this weekend – books published in Chinese that give all of the questions that a candidate will come across in the IELTS exam, with the answers. Imposters. Secret documents. That’s the Australian visa business

There are for example 200 Reading texts used for the IELTS, which cycles through those randomly to produce each ‘unique’ test.

Chinese candidates can learn to look for two or three key words in the texts which alert them to which answers to give. This of course requires a lot of dedicated rote learning, but is much quicker than trying to actually become proficient in English at this level.

It would be a good idea to find a better testing system, rather than spending millions on remediation once the students and migrants are ion Australia.

Post script: A quote from Andrew Bartlett’s submission, which I wholeheartedly approve, but also want extended to the Chinese who arrived in 2005-2006 on 457 visas:

“It is grossly unfair to encourage international students to come on the promise of permanent residency, and then change the rules after they have arrived.”

August 31, 2009

Senator Evans wants to market Australia to migrants

Filed under: Immigrant workers,migration,PR — Nayano @ 12:16 pm
Tags: , ,

Senator Evans says Australia needs a rational immigration debate, beyond the hysteria about the few hundred boat people who arrive each year.

”The annual figure this year [for skilled permanent migration] was, say, 115,000, but more than 500,000 came into the country. They came in as students, temporary workers, working holidaymakers … but the public still focuses on the 115,000 as if it’s got anything to do with reality and my attempts to have a more sophisticated debate about this have totally failed.”

Decisions about who came to Australia would be increasingly left to employers although, conversely, Australia would also be competing for the most highly skilled migrants. Senator Evans said to do that successfully the impacts of record high immigration on our liveability had to be tackled.

”In Australia we’ve got this sense of, ‘Well, we’re the lucky country’ and … people will naturally come here, and that’s still true to an extent. But other countries … are increasingly marketing themselves too.”

Migration rules set for revamp

August 15, 2009

457 visa numbers drop

Filed under: 457,457 visas — Nayano @ 8:30 am
Tags: , ,

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Evans, released a summary report for the subclass 457 business (long stay) visa for June 2008-09 this week.

  • Primary applications lodged in 2008-09 were 11 per cent below as compared to previous term
  • Primary applications granted also slipped by 13 per cent below last year
  • Primary visa applications in June 2009 were 45 per cent lower than June 2008 and 40 per cent lower than in September 2008
  • Of the top 15 occupations for primary applications granted, only registered nurses rose up by 18 per cent
  • There were 77,330 primary visa holders in Australia at 30 June 2009, compared to a peak of 83,130 at the end of February 2009
  • New South Wales recorded the biggest decline in use of temporary skilled overseas workers with a 24 per cent drop in primary applications, Western Australia reported drop by 9.5 per cent, Queensland by 7.5 per cent drop and Victoria by 7.1 per cent.

Perhaps this will keep the unions happy? Rudd sweetens unions with 457 hints

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