No Education for Adults Seeking Asylum

No Education for Adults Seeking Asylum
In the last few years, Australia has become very popular with young adults seeking asylum from their dangerous and crime-ridden homelands. The total number of requests for asylum has risen from 668 in 2008-2009 to 7379 in 2011-2012, with about 65% of the people screened last year aged 30 or younger.

The result of this increase has been that the country’s border patrol has increased and possibly gotten out of hand. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s current policy holds that those arriving at the country by ship who are on bridging visas lose their right to attend school at the end of the school term during which they turn 18. So, the second someone becomes an adult, they lose the right to a proper education.

Those who are seeking asylum in Australia are generally suffering persecution in their country of origin due to race, religion, gender, economic standing, or political affiliation. Many of them may be refugees and are unable to seek an education as a result. They travel to Australia with hopes that they may be able to improve their lives and flourish outside the harsh environment they had been living in.

A 17-year-old Hazara boy fled to Australia after he was persecuted in Afghanistan and Pakistan by extremists groups due to his race and therefore unable to go to school. Leaving his family and life behind, he came to seek education and work in a better place. But he has been left in a lurch thanks to the Australian government. He told The Global Mail, “When I was in my country I worked so hard, I like to work … part of the time work … to study as well. I like that. Now I am not allowed to work and study.”

Upon his arrival in the country, he was not allowed to enroll in school because he would soon be turning 18. He is also not allowed to work, but is provided a small government stipend to meet basic needs. The Red Cross pays for him to study English several hours a week, but otherwise, he just waits for his asylum claim to be processed.

The government argues that children of mandatory school age, 5-17, are put through school regardless of their asylum status but that it would be unreasonable to expect adults to stay in school because of the extra costs that are incurred as a result. However, the education of young adults is arguably just as important as that of children. Going to school provides the asylum seekers with a focus for their lives, makes them feel like part of a community, and provides them with a chance at bettering themselves before either settling down in Australia or getting repatriated back to their own country.

There are schools that are known for going against the government’s demands and allow adult students to stay and continue their education, but without citizenship, those seeking asylum are still unable to get government assistance for higher education or get jobs while they wait.

And things could be even bleaker than initially imagined. The Prime Minister announced on the 19th that all those arriving by boat would be removed to Papua New Guinea and would not be allowed to permanently settle in Australia. Those who are found to be refugees may stay in Papua New Guinea but otherwise must leave. There is no word on what this would mean for those currently waiting for ruling on their asylum requests in Australia, but it is clear that soon education will not be the only thing at stake for those fleeing their country and seeking help in Australia.

– Chelsea Evans

Sources: The Global Mail, Asylum Trends, New York Times
Photo: Harris