Tag: international students

‘Garbage’ and ‘cash cows’: temporary migrants describe anguish of exclusion and racism during COVID-19

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By Bassina Farbenblum* & Laurie Berg**

In early April, Prime Minister Scott Morrison sent a clear message to temporary visa holders that if they were no longer financially solvent to ride out the pandemic, they were not welcome in Australia.

As much as it’s lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times, at times like this, if you are a visitor in this country, it is time […] to make your way home.

As our new research published today shows, this statement fuelled feelings of abandonment and worthlessness among temporary visa holders who have been left out of the government’s economic support schemes during the COVID-19 crisis.

In our survey of more than 6,100 temporary visa holders (including international students, backpackers and holiday workers), many used stark, dehumanising language to describe how they’ve felt since the pandemic began in Australia six months ago:

like we do not exist

aliens who don’t belong here

inanimate objects

discarded, unimportant, and expendable

garbage

dirt.

Others recounted harrowing experiences of racist attacks — being punched, kicked, shoved and deliberately spat at or coughed on by passers-by — as well as a range of xenophobic slurs.

For many of our respondents, this has destroyed their sense of belonging in Australia and fundamentally changed their perceptions of the country and its leaders.

‘ATMs of the Australian government’

Our earlier research, and that of other scholars, has documented how temporary visa holders have suffered financially during the crisis.

These visa holders include international students, backpackers, graduates, sponsored workers and refugees. Many work in casualised industries, such as hospitality and retail, lost their jobs and struggled to meet basic living expenses.

There are more than one million temporary visa holders in Australia — who may comprise up to 10% of Australia’s workforce — but they have been excluded from the federal JobKeeper and JobSeeker support schemes.

In our latest survey, thousands of respondents voiced their distress and anger at the government’s lack of support during lockdown. Many felt their only value to Australia was as a revenue stream, since they worked here and paid taxes or spent considerable sums to study at universities.

A striking number used words such as “cash cows”, “money-making plants”, “ATMs of the Australian government” and “walking moneybags”.

Many felt callously used for their cheap labour. A Russian master’s student said:

We paid taxes. We did all dirty work Australians don’t want to do and what about us? […] It is nice to have invisible cheap workers that will be silently committing to work when you and your family can stay at home or work from home and get government support and don’t lose any money.

International students, in particular, have been encouraged by the government and universities to invest heavily in Australia — often spending their life savings — to set up new lives here. Many stay for at least five years — a three-year bachelor’s degree followed by a two-year temporary graduate visa.

As one French graduate visa holder put it:

some of us have been here for years and consider Australia like our home now. Quitting everything we have done and been through is just unimaginable.

Racist slurs and taunts

For some, their experiences have gone beyond social exclusion to overt racism. Almost a quarter of our respondents said they had been subjected to racist verbal abuse since the pandemic began in March. And a quarter said people avoided them because of their appearance.

More than half (52%) of Chinese respondents reported experiencing at least one of these forms of racism, as did more than 40% of those from other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

We also received more than 1,600 personal accounts of targeted xenophobic slurs, such as people saying “coronavirus”, “Chinese virus”, “Asian virus” or worse to them in public or at work.

One Chinese woman noted:

a stranger shouted in my face that I am the virus in the supermarket.

Another international student observed this kind of harassment

is a regular thing for Asian people in Australia.

In an echo of the prime minister’s words, many respondents from a range of nationalities reported being told to “get out of Australia”.

As one Colombian student put it,

I received many comments from Australian[s] telling me leave the country, go back your home, ask you[r] family for money, respect the Australian people.

An Indian student recalled being told

to go back to my country by random strangers on the street while working as an Uber Eats delivery man.

Abandoning people in their time of need

Clearly, the impact of the exclusion felt by these temporary visa holders will far outlast the pandemic.

The government’s failure to support these vulnerable people has the potential to profoundly impact Australia’s global reputation. The country’s education and tourism sectors will also likely suffer the economic consequences for years to come.

Of the students and working holiday makers in our survey, 60% indicated they are now less likely or much less likely to recommend Australia as a place to study or work.

This includes international students from important education markets like China and Nepal (76% and 69% less likely to recommend Australia, respectively).

Our survey reveals the financial situation of many respondents is rapidly worsening, with more than a third of international students indicating they will run out of funds by next month.

The government must use the October budget to rectify the exclusion of temporary migrants from social support measures.

If it is not compelled to act for ethical or diplomatic reasons, it should at least listen to the observations of one survey respondent. This is emblematic of the sentiments expressed by thousands more:

Australia showed its true colours when it came to international students. They call us friends but then abandon us in our time of need. I think Australia will struggle to attract international students after the disgraceful treatment and lack of compassion shown during COVID.

* Associate professor, UNSW
** Associate Professor, University of Technology Sydney

Source- The Conversation, Sept 17, 2020 (Under Creative Commons Licence)

Vice Chancellors welcome Victoria’s $45 million support package for international students

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By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 30 April 2020: Different sections of the university sector and the wider community has welcomed the announcement by the Victorian Government to establish a $45 million support package for international students facing hardship due to COVID-19.

Victoria now joins the Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australian, Tasmanian and Western Australian governments in assisting international students who, like their Australian peers, have lost casual or part-time jobs as a result of the global pandemic.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said almost all states and territories, together with every Australian university, now offer support for international students.

“Many international students now find themselves in extremely difficult circumstances due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Unlike their Australian classmates, there will be those who won’t have family or local support networks to fall back on,” Ms. Jackson said.

“Assistance from all levels of government adding to that from our universities is vital at this time of growing need.”

“University support initiatives now include providing emergency grants, scholarships, accommodation, food, and low cost or free IT equipment.”

Ms. Jackson welcomed the Victorian support package and the co-contribution from the state’s universities.

“Universities Australia welcomes the Victorian Government’s announcement to work with universities to assist the more than 100,000 higher education international students in the state who are facing hardship after losing their part-time jobs,” she said.

“International education is Australia’s fourth-largest export. In Victoria, universities contributed $7.5 billion in export income in 2018-19, supporting thousands of local jobs.”

Mr. Sharif As- Saber, Foundation Director, Master of International Business Program at RMIT University says, “The emergency relief fund for international students will help struggling international students during this unprecedented lockdown period. The Vic government website has created a link where students can register their interests. However, it is not clear how long will it take to receive the money.

It would be great if the government expedite the process. Although this will not be enough to support struggling international students during this unfortunate and uncertain situation, it will, at least, provide the students with some mental boost and sigh of relief.

Especially after the Prime Minister’s reckless ‘time to go home’ comment in early April, international students have received this positive news from the Victorian government. Regardless of the amount of money in the offer, this is heartening! I must thank and congratulate the Victorian Government for coming up with this innovative initiative!”

Australia asks international students to ‘rely on family support, part-time work where available and their own savings to sustain themselves in Australia’

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 4 Apri 2020: Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Australia wants its 565,000 international students to fend for themselves. The government says in a press statement, “As part of their visa application, international students have had to demonstrate that they can support themselves completely in their first year.” What status international students have after the first year is not known. Plus, overseas students face the grim reality of so many small businesses closed wiping out casual jobs.

In his media conference on 3 April, PM Scott Morrison said, ” “They’re obviously not held here compulsorily. If they’re not in a position to support themselves, then there is an alternative for them to return to their home countries.”

The PM said it was “lovely to have visitors to Australia in good times”. But now they should “make your way home” and “ensure that you can receive the supports that are available…in your home countries.

“At this time, Australia must focus on its citizens. Our focus and our priority is on supporting Australians and Australian residents with the economic supports that are available.”

The rather grim news is reinforced from a media statement from the office of The Hon Alan Tudge MP, Minister For Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services, and Multicultural Affairs who says in a media statement emailed on the morning of 4 April 2020:

“All students who come to Australia…have to give a warranty that they are able to support themselves for the first 12 months of their study. That is not an unreasonable expectation of the government, that students would be able to fulfill the commitment that they gave.

International students

There are 565,000 international students in Australia, mainly studying in the higher
education or vocational education sector. They are an important contributor to our tertiary
sector and economy, supporting 240,000 Australian jobs.

Students are encouraged to rely on family support, part-time work where available and their
own savings to sustain themselves in Australia. As part of their visa application,
international students have had to demonstrate that they can support themselves
completely in their first year.

Students who have been here longer than 12 months who find themselves in financial
hardship will be able to access their Australian superannuation.

The Government will undertake further engagement with the international education sector
who already provides some financial support for international students facing hardship. For
example, we understand there are some education providers that are providing fee
discounts to international students.

The Government will also be flexible in cases where Coronavirus has prevented
international students meeting their visa conditions (such as not being able to attend classes).

International students are able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight.
International students working in aged care and as nurses have had these hours extended to
support these critical sectors.

International students working in the major supermarkets had also had these hours
extended to help get stock on shelves during the high demand. From 1 May, their hours will
return to the maximum 40 hours a fortnight as more Australians are being recruited into these roles.”

There are at present 2.17 million people on temporary visas in Australia. This includes 8,000 skilled medical professionals, 203,000 international visitors, 565,000 international students, 672,000 New Zealanders on subclass 444 visas, 118,000 on Working Holiday Visas which have work rights and another 185,000 other temporary visa holders.

International student numbers soar in Victoria

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Photo: Melbourne University

By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 1 August: Victoria’s international education sector has set records for enrolments and economic impact, cementing the
sector’s status as a multi-billion-dollar export earner.

New figures show international students from 170 countries accounted for 281,000 enrolments last year, up 11.4
per cent, supporting almost 79,000 Victorian jobs and generating $11.8 billion in export revenue.
Revenue for Victoria has increased by 89 per cent since 2014, making international education the state’s largest
export category, ahead of tourism ($5.4 billion) and wool ($2.1 billion).

The total number of international students was 227,000, with some enrolled in multiple courses.
The top five countries for onshore students were China (88,401), India (50,463), Malaysia (16,643), Vietnam
(12,763) and Sri Lanka (9,541). The most popular fields of study were management and commerce (32 per cent),
arts and humanities (21 per cent), IT (10 per cent) and foundation studies (10 per cent).

Victoria is a premium higher education and research destination, with higher education responsible for half of all
international student enrolments. Melbourne is Australia’s top student city as ranked by the QS Best Student
Cities 2019 report, where it was also ranked third best student city in the world.
That high standing is due to the quality student experience that Victoria offers, enhanced by the Andrews Labor
Government’s nation-leading investment in student wellbeing services.

Today, the Labor Government announced almost $1 million in International Student Welfare Program grants,
supporting 27 projects.

Since 2014, the Government has committed $4 million to 104 projects that protect and promote international
student wellbeing in areas including sport, work rights, accommodation, legal services and mental health.
The Government also operates the Study Melbourne Student Centre, a central hub on Hardware Lane where
students have access to a broad range of free services, face-to-face case management and professional
development programs. The centre has helped more than 6,300 students since September 2018.

Victoria to appoint ‘South Asia Business Commissioner’ in Bangalore

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By Neeraj Nanda

Melbourne, 12 June: Victoria has decided to go all out to woo business and trade relations with India and other South Asian countries. The state has decided to appoint a ‘South Asia Business Commissioner’ based in Bangalore. This was disclosed today by Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade, Hon. Philip Dalidakis at a media conference for ethnic media at the Parliament House.

“The Andrews Government is also preparing an India strategy,” he said.

The Trade Minister also said building their own wealth is good for new migrants. He also praised international students in Victoria for contributing so much and those going back to home becoming Australia’s Ambassadors in India. This he felt was a great contribution.

It was disclosed there are 175,000 international students in Victoria and it earned $ 7.1 billion from the international education sector.

Earlier, the Trade Minister was introduced by Multicultural Minister Hon. Robin Scott who detailed some of his initiatives including the international student travel discounts, a trade mission to China, Hamer scholarship program and helping companies enter the China market.