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 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.

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.”

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 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 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.

August 27, 2009

Students to march for foreign student rights

Thousands of foreign and local students in Australia are planning to march in Sydney next month in protest, claiming that the Australian Government fails to protect students against fraudulent Australian Immigration companies (see Rapacious agents chase international students)
and faults in the education system.

The students will march on the 2 September from the University of Sydney and will finish outside Parliament House.

The National Union of Students (NUS) says that international students have suffered attacks, have less rights in the workplace and more expensive accommodation.

The NUS are demanding that the government implement reforms to make education fair for international students.

Thanks to Embrace Australia for the heads up

August 20, 2009

Immigration makes new rules for ‘colleges’ and reviews treatment of disability

Julia Gillard yesterday flagged legislative changes forcing all 1300 registered colleges and universities to re-register under tighter guidelines.

The Aussie possie has been concerned about the so-called colleges offering ‘education’ to international students as a path to permanent residency. Holy cash cows tell of rorts of foreign students.

To re-register under the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students, providers will have to demonstrate a commitment to education and standards. They must re-register by the end of next year Julia Gillard takes aim at rogue colleges

New inquiry launched into migration treatment of disability

In response to the Doctor who was denied Australian permanent residency because his son had Down Syndrome, the Joint Standing Committee on Migration has launched an inquiry into the migration treatment of disability. The Committee will examine whether visa decision-makers should be able to take into account the social and economic contribution, as well as the anticipated health care costs, of potential migrants with disabilities.

In the words of Committee Chair Michael Danby-

“Potential migrants with disabilities and their families are currently treated under the migration system as costs to our society, and there is little scope to take into account the contributions they might make to their community and workplace,” he said.

“Under the terms of reference we will be examining whether the balance between the economic and social benefits of the entry and stay of an individual with a disability, and the costs and use of services by that individual, should be a factor in a visa decision.”

“We look forward to receiving a wide range of submissions to the inquiry about where the balance should lie between our positive recognition of the role that people with disabilities play in our community, our human rights obligations, and the realities of a health system and disability services sector under pressure.”

Thanks to Andrew Bartlett for calling attention to this on his blog.

August 11, 2009

Australia on trial in first Southeast Asian Court of Women

The first Southeast Asian Court of Women on HIV and Human Trafficking is being held in Bali. More than 20 Southeast Asian women have narrated their personal stories of exploitation and abuse.

I have been concerned about the 457 visa because, whatever controls the government may put in place, the worker is still beholden to the employer, and therefore reluctant to speak out Chinese slave labour in Australia

The stories sometimes do emerge, but most wait until they are out of the country.

Danton Remoto of ABS/CBN News reports the story of a Filipina woman exploited while on a 457 visa in Australia:

“Amalia was a call-center agent in Manila who wanted a better life for her child, who has learning difficulties, and herself. She was being beaten up by her husband, so she left him and raised her child alone.

“She applied for work in Australia as a Restaurant Duty Manager on a 457 visa. Her sister told her that it was a lopsided visa, since she could work for only one employer, her sponsor, and could not leave even if they were maltreating her. But she did not listen to her sister.

“She flew to Australia, only to discover that she is more of waitress and janitor than manager of the restaurant. She stayed in a cramped apartment with three other Filipinas and had many mysterious deductions in her paycheck. When she and her fellow Filipinas banded together with the help of Migrante and Buhay Foundation and asked for better treatment and just wages, the restaurant management fired them, citing the economic crunch as a reason.

“She returned to Manila and has filed a case against her employer, speaking out against the ills of not getting full information about the contract, culture and context of one’s foreign employment.” Filipina workers testify in Southeast Asian Court of Woman

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