Why aren’t we letting skilled asylum seekers work?

Margaret Simons writes:

Amid all the hoopla about the skilled migration program and the Budget, another significant story has been buried.

The Rudd Government has delivered on its promise to abolish the Temporary Protection Visa system, under which asylum seekers found to be refugees were denied access to unemployment benefits, pensions and English lessons.

There are also small increases in humanitarian refugee intake quotas – an extra 500 paces for Iraqis in 2008/09 and 750 extra general humanitarian places in 2009-2010. See the budget figuring and explanations here.

Refugee advocate groups are applauding these changes – but otherwise remain p-ssed off with the new Government for failing to give asylum seekers the right to work while their applications are processed.

Research published last year suggests that seven out of ten asylum seekers who are already here have skills on the Government’s most wanted list – yet they are denied the right to work while awaiting the processing of their applications. Meanwhile, the Budget allocates $1.3 million to bringing an extra 37,500 skilled migrants into the country.

The research, by Melbourne University doctoral candidate Gwilym Croucher and Asylum Seeker Resource Centre co-ordinator Sophie Dutertre, involved a survey of 211 work rights and Medicare ineligible asylum seekers in NSW and Victoria in 2005.

The survey found that three quarters had occupations on the list for the General Skilled Migration Program. They included engineers, teachers, tailors, social workers, computer programmers and agricultural scientists. 45% of those with occupations on the list had skills in high demand. They included accountants, chefs, electricians, hairdressers, nurses and dentists.

43% of those surveyed had professional qualifications, and 27% were in the process of getting a Bachelor degree or higher. A third held trade qualifications. Most of those surveyed said they were willing to work in rural and regional areas.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre estimates that up to 3,000 adult work-age asylum seekers are presently prohibited from working. If the surveyed group is representative, Croucher calculates that asylum seekers presently dependent on charity for basic support could add a potential $188 million to the economy.

Asylum Seeker Resource Centre CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis has described the result as “absurd”.

The reason, historically, is part of the package of legislation aimed at deterrence of unauthorised arrivals, together with quieting fears that refugees might take jobs from Australians.

On the other hand, other recent research by Monash University demographer Bob Birrell has suggested that skilled migrants don’t land jobs that match their qualifications because of their poor English.

Just a few weeks ago, Birrell called on the government to halt the skilled migration program and to focus on spending to give migrants already in Australia the language skills they need to impress employers.

Doubtless the same concerns would apply to skilled asylum seekers, which means it may be doubly good that TPV holders will now be able to access English lessons.

But the two sets of research together do seem to raise some questions about why the overall program is being managed as it is.

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Pamela Curr
Campaign Coordinator
Asylum Seeker Resource Centre ASRC
12 Batman St
West Melbourne 3003
ph 03 93266066 fax 03 93265199

Fix our Refugee System
•	End Temporary Protection Visas
•	Right to Work for All
•	End Mandatory Detention

One thought on “Why aren’t we letting skilled asylum seekers work?

  1. This is a video of the Iraqi Kurds : http://www.metrotvnews.com/new/berita.asp?id=70726 who set off in a boat to Australia and nearly drowned.

    Three of the men have lived in Australia. They are victims of the Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) regime with its brutal no family reunion condition. After waiting 4 years one man told me that he could bear it no longer waiting for a visa to see his family. He went back and found life unsafe and intolerable so he brought them to Indonesia where they have waited and waited far a place to call home.

    Not only has Australia recognised his valid claim for a refugee visa- so has the UNHCR. While they lived in Indonesia with no right to work and no schooling for the children for years they all became “very tired” and eventually the pressure to try to fix their problem themselves, tempted them to try to get to Australia.

    Three of the men in this ill-fated group have been recognised as refugees by Australia and lived here.The Australian details one such story today.

    While Sharman Stone and her cohorts seek to gain political traction with their “floods of refugees” rhetoric, these people will sleep tonight on a concrete floor, no beds, with only a blanket to keep them warm. Two families comprising 11 men and women and children all together in one small cell. This should cheer Ms Stone and the Millionaire Malcolm – they are getting their just desserts for taking the initiative and trying to make better, safer lives for them selves and their children. They would never do that would they?

    Pamela Curr

    Iraq: The Plight of the Faili Kurds 24 Apr 2008 16:41:00 GMT
    Baghdad, Iraq – The Faili Kurds are one of the most oppressed groups of Kurds.

    Like other Kurds, they were abused during Saddam Hussein’s regime. Statistics from the United Nations show that more than 450 thousand Faili Kurds were deported to Iran in the 1980s and nearly 10 thousand Faili Kurds between the ages of 13 and 30 years old are still missing until the current moment.

    A large number of this Kurdish minority fled out of Iraq to a number of other countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, and France.

    They were fleeing the bad circumstances they endured under several governments that ruled Iraq. Now, despite the fall of Saddam Hussein and the work of many citizens toward establishing a democratic Iraq, the Faili Kurds still face several difficulties.

    Among others, until now, they did not receive the same rights as other Iraqis.

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