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Foreign students -hidden immigration victims

This article describes an example of the serious and inhumane impact, in the form of crisis involving several individuals, and a specific suburb and hospital system, of Australian immigration policy. The government is maintaining a policy of high mass immigration contrary to the wishes of the majority of citizens. Citizens have no useful outlet and no effective parliamentary representation on this.
The mass media covers matters in a manner that keeps the arguments circular and without constructive democratic outlet. For this reason serves an important purpose in expressing peoples' views and in exposing the impacts of the government's undemocratic and environmentally and socially harmful policy.

Student industry - easily abandoned cash-cows

In this article the push by universities to get students from overseas to make up finance shortfalls that once were supplied from taxes comes under the spotlight.  The article looks at the cost to Australian students deprived of places and the cost to foreign students of maintaining their places.  It also looks at how Victorian hospitals' bed shortages are a direct result of the effective push by the growth lobby to have more and more people in this country.

There is little revealed in the media of foreign student struggles, their impact on university courses and standards, their access to residency, and scams. Universities have become another industry, outsourced globally for economic benefits rather than institutions that aspire to quality education, learning, ethics and research – and a way to ensure our young people are able to reach their potential equitably.

Open to rorts and scams

The Federal government migration program, designed to attract thousands of young, highly skilled students to fill Australian jobs, has been "corrupted" by a Melbourne man who created a sophisticated scam that rorted the already dubious system.

Carmine Amarante made tens of thousands of dollars, and was expecting more in the future, by manufacturing hundreds of fraudulent documents for international students to ultimately become permanent residents.

The student scam also allows “students” to enter Australia without sufficient financial support, without tickets and money to pay for their air fares to return to their countries.

Our own personal experience

We have experience with an international student we were in contact with, from a country in South America. I will call her “G” so not to identify her.

We helped her find accommodation and we have invited her to join us for a few social and cultural events.

G has been under terrific stress - no job, no money, failed exams, not being able to pay rent, and then she developed a mental health issue - paranoia, delusions, crying and became suicidal.

She started a fire in the rented house she is in, and burnt her clothes and linen. She suffered bouts of paranoia and called the police three times, thinking she was being assaulted or raped.

G asked for help. We took her to a GP and he referred her to the local public hospital - one of the biggest in Melbourne. We stayed with her for 12 hours in the hope of getting a bed.

After my partner spent many hours with her, not long after he left she was released by the hospital, to another “student” who arrived at the emergency ward last moment. He had no money, was almost illegal himself, with inadequate accommodation and no car.

She had to be picked up at the station. She was threatening to escape, and she vowed she wasn't going to take “drugs”!

She was using her acquaintances and friends to borrow money. She had no job, her rented room was almost expired, and she wasn't welcome where she had been living.

Excessive stress on foreign students

This kind of situation has occurred before, with very serious consequences, such as when Huan Yun "Allen" Xiang, a 46 year old Chinese student with little social support, shot several people in his class at Monash university in 2002. Although Xiang might have developed paranoid schizophrenia anyway and was presumably a permanent citizen, since he ended up indefinitely at Thomas Embling Hospital for the criminally insane, he seems to have been isolated by language difficulties. As he began shooting, it was reported that "People in the classroom were initially confused by the noise and by Xiang screaming 'You never understand me!' from the desk he was standing on."[1]. He would would also “curse the lecturer constantly in Cantonese” from the back of classrooms.[2]

It should be recognised that the stress of being away from one's family and compatriots and studying in a new language, without adequate finances or whilst acquiring large debts, is guaranteed to increase health risks. If Universities are to have foreign students they should be responsible, caring and hospitable towards them and liaise with the Department of Immigration and the students' embassies. In the days of Columbo Plan students, foreign student welfare was taken seriously, but this caring attitude has fallen away as foreign students are now simply seen as cash cows.

Population growth drives bed shortages for locals and for immigrants

Our recent crisis was made worse by Victoria's hospital bed shortages. The impact of high population growth means that there was no bed for G at the local hospital. Despite overcrowding in this hospital already, the Victorian government is planning to greatly increase population and housing density in the surrounding suburban area. The “shortage” of beds is due to not the number of beds dwindling, but to our population boom!

G is not illegal at the moment as her visa has not expired. She was given more time to pay the university fees that she owes. If this time expires, so will her visa. There are no funds coming from her family. They live in poverty, and G was actually expected to sent money to them!

Quite legal to be vagrant in Australia

After ringing up “Immigration dob-in line,” I was informed that it is quite legal to stay in Australia unless the visa has expired, or there is some evidence of fraud. This is despite students being without income, accommodation, or not being able to pay for study fees. Even illness can't force them to be deported.

In Continental Europe, not having suitable accommodation or funds are grounds for being refused entry or sent home.

The Immigration Department won't do anything about students in need, or those causing problems to themselves or others until they are illegal! They don't even have to have money or ticket, (depending on the student visa type) and if they don't manage, Australian authorities generally do nothing!  G can be destitute here and there is no duty of care from our government. The department of Immigration suggested that I should contact charities!  Already our charities are over-used. 

Foreign students are silently allowed to “fall through the cracks” of social support, but any criticism and exposure of them is based on “racism”?

Abandoned by the Embassy

The embassy of the country G came from was not interested in her difficult situation in Australia. They had no funds, despite the Ambassador being on a salary of $20,000 per month, with an office in Canberra!

The university tried to contact her, but got no response. We don't know where the money for her ticket home is coming from.

She is now in a public hospital ward in a psychiatric unit.

Poverty of foreign and Australian university students

Governments are reluctant to pay for the costs of educating Australians, and to give them the support they need. The growth of demand from international students, most of them from Asia, is a way of filling a potential gap in university enrollments which are now beyond the means of most Australians to pay. Foreign students are willing to pay for their own education, at full costs, at no expense to the Australian government.

Education has become Australia’s third largest export earner, after iron ore and coal.

High student poverty rates

Universities Australia has reported that one in eight Australian students surveyed by them told of regularly going without food or other necessities because they did not have enough money. According to the National Union of Students the maximum Youth Allowance benefit that an Australian student under 25 and living in a share house can receive is $245 per fortnight, which is 38% below the poverty line ($645.15 per fortnight). No wonder students are struggling.

Population groups which may be at particular risk of food insecurity include homeless people, those on low income or living in poverty, including people on pensions and benefits, unemployed people and students - including international students.

Universities Australia’s most recent survey found that one in eight students regularly go without food or other necessities because they don’t have enough money. Money Help’s financial counsellor Brian Kerr says, most of the students I’ve helped are international students who find themselves in financial difficulty. Students are on such a low income but the cost of being a student is so high.

Tips and services to keep you above the poverty line

Foreign students little more than slave labour

Overseas students getting as little as $6 an hour to work in local Asian restaurants are too afraid to complain for fear of losing even the meagre wages paid by their unscrupulous bosses.

They are here as cash-cows, to provide willing, cheap and flexible labour to businesses.

Little media attention

There is very little in the media about the problems of international students. It's a hidden industry, and the costs to our already strained charities is ignored.

The implications of universities being starved of funds and having to rely on international students has impacts on Australia's job market, especially for local students. Education here has been globalized, to our detriment.

Ambiguity of International students programs makes abuse likely, with serious consequences

Amarante admitted he was paid between $500 and $1000 for the 777 false work experience documents he created and had paid employers, some who were friends, some from referrals and others he approached on the street. This exposed “student” scandal further compromises our GSM (“general skilled migration”) program.

Of the 375 visa applications lodged under Amarante's false documents, 34 were granted permanent or temporary visas, 67 were refused, 217 remain pending and 57 were withdrawn.

Students coming to Australia should be interested in education, not residence in Australia. Learning and qualifications should be the motive, not living in Australian. Mixing immigration and education leaves this scheme open for corruption and distortion. It assumes that we have insufficient job applicants and ignores our population growth, our youth unemployment and underemployment levels, and displaces more further Australians from housing.


[1] Jamie Berry, (2003-09-12)."Student believed Monash killings were 'his destiny,'" The Age.

[2] Jamie Berry, "Student 'hosed' room with bullets, court told,"The Age, September 13, 2003.

Post-script - G, motivated by her estranged mother, wants to "sue" the people her helped her for "emotional abuse" (trying to get rent payments from her) and "kidnapping" (after admitting being suicidal to the local GP and taking her to hospital) in order to acquire funds to pay her fees and stay in Australia!

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This article is in depth and covers the neglect as well as the aid that overseas students receive, where applicable.

Bandicoot, you're right about the media not mentioning enough about international students - now that the numbers of them are so high and the industry is so big, there might be less in the news about them, which is suspect... But go back say five years ago, there were features in the paper(s) about how they might feel targeting and items about how oh, they're really not that rich at all and with a bit of bias, how they're 'good for our economy'. But to be more to the point - the immigration 'debate' and mentions in the media ONLY cover re: asylum seekers and the immigration department's dealings in that area. It is a perfect and strategic SMOKESCREEN for the REAL immigration coming into the state and the country, which is of the overseas students! Ha! Yep. One would have to be daft as well as dumb to believe that immigration numbers are coming from 'boat people'... No way. Economic migrants make up the unnatural population growth that is causing stress to so many aspects of our lives i.e childcare places, school places, parking spots, our human right to housing. If anything pop' growth is broken down and reported like it's a good thing while, yeah, students who later apply for residence pass easily through the immigration application.

But the frightening facts of their visa fine print - which might cause some relief for some foreign students - of not being encouraged to hold onto their supposed AU$75,000 their meant to have on them when they apply for the visa and not even having to present a return air ticket has and can, as you've experienced, backfire - big time - to the point where the Imm' Dept and even hospitals wash their hands of a foreign visa holder, and so does an Embassy or Consulate! There could be a lot of this happening, what with agencies here and abroad promoting the work hours they're allowed to have while enrolled in a full-time course, implying that it's easy to earn money here, but for those not used to even working, let alone managing grocery shopping and cooking and dealing with housemates, all this could be super super stressful. How many say Asian nationals end up completely destitute and vagrant, while still being 'legal', in the country, while too 'sick' or even too homeless to contribute labour in the workforce... We don't need more homeless in Australia, especially any that are still legals in the country with student visas that don't have much tied to studying or to the course institution itself, if one hasn't paid the fees they need to pay. Of course, the media don't relay these facts and figures to its audience. It might be charities/groups like the one you've listed that would have experience with foreign visa holders as they encounter huge financial stresses and other, stresses.

A lot comes down to the support to our own universities and State-run Tafes which has had funds denied to them. The overseas student industry should be 90% canned and where they are allowed here, they should be expected to return home and not allowed to work here, meaning they are genuine about the course they are studying while the visas given to them being harder to get, requiring a ticket home and sufficient funds in an Australian bank account. The main scam, I suppose, is that the industry goes hand in hand with the immigration State governments rely upon, as we have the highest immigration rate in the developed world! We don't need either (or the same) group in this country. We have enough people who want qualifications and people in general here; we in Vic just need to have other viable industries, and not property development and the lust for cheap labour across many sectors that new residents bring. Our hospitals aren't being expanded and more resources being offered to them to even keep up with the demand on them, so we do have enough work just with our own young people and their needs in terms of health, accomodation and social support, let alone foreigners with family problems! It's not for us to be helping them here, really, but they are being scammed.

If we have massive and chronic skills shortages, why are so many foreign students lured here? Surely it means we have a world class standard of education, in TAFES and universities?
If our educational standards are so high and attractive, why do we have "skills shortages"? It's not lack of universities, but lack of support and high costs of study.
Institutions have become dependent on foreign income, and the ideals of education have been corrupted by fees.
Surely it's an irony that we have "skills shortages" yet at the same we time attract students from all over the world for our presumably high standard of education? It's a contradiction due to having our resources globalized.

A string of Australian federal governments cut public spending on higher education, and pushed it towards a user-pays system. That coincided neatly with the sector turning en masse towards the international education market.
From the early 1990s onwards, per head domestic student funding more or less halved while the numbers of foreign students more than doubled. We imported large numbers of fee-paying students and some Australian institutions went to teach international students overseas. Australia became a world leader in exporting education, but the hidden strains were substantial.
For a long time the Australian system relied on international full fee-payers to supplement sagging national funding. Full-fee paying students were a more lucrative than domestic students. We ended up with skilled people, at no cost to the government. It was thus better to promote a "skills shortage" and poach students and professionals from overseas - especially India and China.
Australia’s approach to higher education competition is a standard commercial one – successful operations will attract the best students - even if it is to our detriment. It's a commercialization of education as a business, not as a place primarily to support the higher ideals of learning, research and higher thinking. It's not about how best to serve national interests, but business branding.
Our tertiary education has been deliberately underfunded to force this change.
Higher education needs to be seen as an investment, not as a cost, or a drain on the national budget. It's about investing in our young people and in change - our future. Higher education needs a clear and significant commitment from Government.
There's no problem with teaching international students, but they should contribute to their own country when they return, not allow our universities to be confused with our immigration and disadvantage the existing population with undue competition.
The ECONOMY and its growth has become the primary focus of our governments, and groveling to Asia to increase it's size means our sovereignty, our national pride, our patriotism, our national interests, our uniqueness as a nation are being suppressed and sacrificed. Their aims are to increase our GDP, at whatever costs and even if it means we must suffer deprivations, competition with outsiders, and face increasing hardships and decreasing per capita GDP.

Acting Ombudsman John Taylor’s report identified issues including offers of bribes to academics, passing failing students and plagiarism as problems with international students.

The report focused on and studied four Victorian universities: RMIT, Swinburne, Deakin and Ballarat.

It recommended that students pass an English language course in the 12 months before admission, and that external examiners report on academic standards and assessment methods. It implies that institutions providing the education are reluctant to fail students due to being reliant on their fees.

It revealed that Victorian universities collected $1.16 billion from international students in 2009 - representing about 20 per cent of their revenue.

RMIT rejects Ombusman's report

It surely is rather contradictory that while we are supposed to have crippling and chronic skills shortages, and need high immigration levels to fill the gaps, that students are coming from all over the world because of our presumably world-class standards of education?

The ANF has documented unsafe conditions for nurses and patients in Victorian hospitals, yet Fairwork Australia has suspended nurses industrial action, claiming that it threatens safety. Why didn't Fairwork find the employers guilty of causing the unsafe conditions that caused the industrial action in the first place? What threatens safety in Victorian hospitals is the ridiculously low staffing levels in the wards and the top-heavy 'project' oriented self-aggrandizing management above the people who have significant patient contact. Really, you could get rid of a lot of the management - notably the people with little or no medical or nursing background - and run hospitals more leanly and efficiently with a greater compliment of hands-on staff.

The reason this isn't being done is that management and the government prevent hands-on staff from communicating directly with the public about deteriorating conditions in hospitals. In that way money continues to be diverted away from nurses and patients and into paper projects. One of the growing burdens which nurses and doctors carry in addition to their patient load is the paperwork imposed on them in order to justify the employment of managers with briefs to measure and justify in pseudo scientific and accounting terms the processing of patients through the system.

Here's how to be more efficient: reduce the paperwork

The other day I heard a psychiatric nurse say, "It would be so much easier if we only had four patients each, instead of five or six, but, if we didn't have to do all this paperwork, I could easily look after ten." She added that she spent most of the day in the office writing about her patients rather than outside the office with them. A nurse who was trained in India said that they had a much higher ratio of patients to nurses there, but almost no paperwork.

There should be a happy medium, but you can be sure that, if hospitals keep such a huge totem-pole of middle and upper management and their administrators, nurses will never reach it and our conditions will continue to go down.

In psychiatry the patient load and the bed situation is made so much worse by paperwork that it is really hard to attract nurses or doctors. Then on top of this the cost of training has become prohibitive. You have to work almost full time while doing expensive post grad courses from which you emerge with a colossal debt and then you have to work in these rotten conditions where stress, writers' cramp and repetitive strain injury are growing hazards - largely unrecognised.

These conditions make it inevitable that hospitals will seek foreign-qualified workers, but many of those workers cannot handle the rotten conditions either, and so the turnover is huge.

Minister Chris Bowen MP is the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. He is scrambling and intertwining these portfolios well!
He announced a suite of measures to "enhance competitiveness" (read -make more attractive) Australia's international education sector. That means attracting more international students.
Hon Michael Knight AO released his "Strategic Review of the Student Visa Program 2011". The government will introduce new streamlined visa processing arrangements for a range of Australian university courses for faster, easier visa access for prospective students in time for second semester next year. That means the "carrot" of accessing PR will entice more students here, and make our universities more alluring.
It also means reducing the financial requirements for some applicants, with students now needing around $36,000 less in the bank when applying for a visa. More students are likely to over-budget and become stranded in Australia.
A two- to four-year post-study work visa will also be available for university graduates depending on the level of study completed. That means that they can work here, compete with citizens, and thus have the work experience to apply for residency.
The changes will allow all English language students to apply for a visa without first meeting minimum English skills requirements.
Australia's international education sector has undergone rapid growth over the past decade, with the number of Student Visas more than doubling from 108 000 in 1997-98 to 269 828 in 2009-10.
According to Dr Bob Birrell, this means the nation will be on track to reach a "big Australia" population of 36 million by 2050, despite Prime Minister Julia Gillard disowning the target during the last election campaign. This means that foreign students will compete with young Australians for scarce jobs. However, spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the Government had "got the balance right on student visas".
Exactly what is in the balance here? Less job opportunities for Australia graduates at the expense of foreigners? This doesn't sound like any "balance" but reverse discrimination.

President Nicolas Sarkozy's administration has launched a politicised crackdown on working visas for thousands of foreigners.
The aim is to cut legal immigration by 10 per cent (20,000 out of 200,000) conveniently in time for the campaign ahead of the presidential poll in May next year.
Foreigners who complete degrees in France usually have the right to work for six months in their chosen area, but now, as student protesters say, they are instead receiving refusals of visa renewals, expulsion notices or unexplained long delays in visa processing.

See: France's visa curbs backfiring of 23 November. (Murdoch's Australian seems to have erected a pay wall around its site. - Ed)

Can someone post the Herald Sun article where Bowen admitted the foreign student policy had been thoroughly rorted and scammed ? It doesn't get much more emphatic than that.

Ed. Hopefully someone will. There are so many rorts, there is so much political dictatorship and exploitation of poor citizens in Australia that we cannot keep up with it. We need people like you to write about it. Australian universities are unrecognizable as institutions of learning; they are afraid to fail people, they no longer offer non-specifically vocational courses and they are agents for destroying Australian democracy and quality of life through encouraging open slather immigration just to stay afloat. Pathetic!
Heading: Immigration report reveals former foreign students switched visas in bid to stay in Australia (August 18th 2012) Probably not it's a bit old.