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Immigration in Australia
Australia welcomed 208,000 immigrants in 2017, most of whom came from India, China and the U.K. This number was significantly higher than the 85,000 in 1996. Australia’s openness to accepting immigrants can be traced back to when prime minister John Howard was first elected in 1996. Howard emphasized accepting skilled migrants, rather than family migrants as a way to boost the economy. The number of permanent migrants from India was 3,000 in 1996 and 40,000 by 2013. The ration of family migrants to skilled migrants has now been reversed to where two-thirds of Australia’s immigrants are skilled migrants and only one-third are family migrants. Immigration in Australia is changing, and here are some reasons why.

The “Pacific Solution”

In 2001, John Howard implemented an immigration policy known as the “Pacific Solution.” The new immigration policy changed the requirements about where a noncitizen could apply for Australian protection. Previously, one could apply from any of Australia’s migration zone, which is comprised of thousands of islands off the coast of Australia. Under the change, Australia had made it so only people who reached the mainland could claim asylum. Australia’s navy was also given the power to stop migrant boats in the ocean, and the country officially started offshore migrant-processing camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In 2013, under the new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australia extended the “Pacific Solution” to include the mainland, which basically meant migrants could be sent to the offshore detention facilities regardless of where their ships landed. Until then, those who reached mainland Australia could not legally be sent to Nauru or PNG. Now, asylum-seekers are held in the camps while their claims are processed. Even if they are found to have valid asylum claim, they are not allowed to settle in Australia. Instead, they may settle on Nauru or PNG. Australia even paid Cambodia $42 million to take four asylum-seekers.

Further Restrictions in Immigration

This immigration policy has had its critics, with some organizations claiming that the policy violates human rights. Howard claimed that the program protects Australia from the continuous number of boats and ships trying to land in the country.  However, Australia did grant 13,800 visas between 2013 and 2014 to Syrian refugee who had legally applied through its Humanitarian Programme, so the country is clearly open to housing refugees who enter the country legally. In 2017, Australia had received 35,170 new requests for asylum, with most refugees coming from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

In March of 2018, the 457 visas were replaced by the Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa. The number of primary visas granted for sponsored workers had decreased by 35 percent from July to September in 2017 compared to the same time frame in 2016. This can be attributed to the fact that the employers wanting to sponsor a 457 worker declined, resulting in a one-third reduction in available jobs.

This new policy will also require workers to have two years work experience to be eligible. Jobs deemed to fall under the Medium or Long-Term Strategic Skills list will give workers a four-year, renewable visa with a pathway to citizenship. However, jobs that fall under the Short-Term Skilled Occupation list will be restricted to a two-year, once refundable visa with no pathway to permanent residency.

Clearly, immigration in Australia is changing. It is unclear to what extent Australia will benefit or suffer from these newly implemented restrictions. One thing is for sure, immigrants seeking asylum are going to have a harder time finding it in Australia.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

Reasons Impoverished People Come to the United States
Most Americans will never know what it is like to be forcibly displaced from their home country. Living in a place where there is no threat of violence is a luxury when compared to the hardships faced by many other people. For those who are not privileged, every day can seem like a struggle. The reasons for impoverished people coming to the United States are many. 

Asylum-Seeker and Refugee

What is the difference between an asylum-seeker and a refugee? Refugees are those who have to seek safety in neighboring counties during times of war or other perils and are recognized by the International Law. Asylum-seekers, however, are migrants whose identity as a refugee is not recognized by their home country. Their reason for fleeing may be related to personal threats of violence and they have not yet claimed refugee status. These two can fall under the term “migrant”.

In the current political climate, a pilgrimage to the United States is a great risk. Therefore, it is important for the natural born citizens of this nation to align themselves with the reasons impoverished people come to the United States

Top 10 Reasons Impoverished People Come to the United States

  1. Persecution: Impoverished people come to the United States to escape persecution, whether it is related to race, religion or political affiliation. Migration is the last option for safety and it is all many families can afford.
  2. Escape Violence: Many people coming to the southern border of the United States hail from the Northern Triangle of Central America, i.e. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The rate of targeted killings and gang-related violence has spiked in these countries in the past few years, causing many citizens to flee.
  3. Environmental Factors: Drastic changes in the natural environment is a prevalent reason for migration to the United States. After the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, around 179,000 people living in Puerto Rico came to the continental U.S.
  4. Healthcare: The impoverished migrants coming into the United States often come from countries with unaffordable or extremely limited access to healthcare.
  5. Jobs: Searching for employment is a top priority for migrants at the southern border. It is nothing short of astounding that nearly two-thirds of adults are able to find work within five weeks of entering, often accepting low wages to provide for themselves and their families.
  6. Children’s Bright Future: In the hopes of offering a better life for their children, many families have sent them out alone. Since the beginning of this year, over 74,000 children have been met at the U.S. southern border without being accompanied by a parent.
  7. Family Reunification: For parents who often have to send their children away ahead of them, coming to the United States is their chance to live as a family free of poverty and persecution.
  8. Protection: In their search for a place that offers an obligation to protect its citizens, migrants come with the hope that they will be protected in the United States. Displacement is something no person would want to go through more than once in their lifetime, so these people are looking for permanence as well. About 60 percent of the undocumented immigrants living in the United States has been there for the past decade.  
  9. Education: Public education is a luxury many impoverished people do not have access to. Coming to the United States provides not only an immediate better life for their families but a long-term plan for their children’s education.
  10. Quality of Life: Overall, this was the promise made to immigrants going back almost 200 years, that a better life was waiting for them if they were willing to work for it.

The above reasons for impoverished people to come to the United States will not only help American citizens empathize with their struggle but possibly look for ways to help them out. Embracing migrants is something that has been an enormous struggle for centuries in the United States, and while every immigrant’s reasons for leaving their home country may be different, their desire to build new, bright future is what brings them here.

– Tresa Rentler
Photo: Flickr

South Sudanese Refugees in UgandaSouth Sudan is a country located in East-Central Africa with a population of approximately 13 million. The country is rich in fertile agricultural land, as well as precious gems and metals such as diamonds and gold. Yet, South Sudan is one of the world’s poorest countries and ranks low in many socioeconomic categories, due to its brutal history of civil war and current tensions with Sudan.

South Sudan has a history of upheaval and political unrest. Prior to gaining its independence in 2011, the country was part of the large Sudan. Yet citizens from the south were not given the same political rights as those in the north, leading to two prolonged periods of conflict occurring from 1955-1972 and 1983-2005.

During this time, an estimated 2.5 million Sudanese died due to starvation and drought.  Finally, in 2005, a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was reached, in which the south was given a six-year period of autonomy to eventually be followed by a referendum to determine the final status of the country. The result of the referendum indicated that 98 percent of the population was in favor of secession.

Despite gaining independence, South Sudan has struggled to control rebel militia groups operating in the region. Following a year of peace, fighting broke out again in July 2016, leaving millions of South Sudanese displaced, as many were forced to flee their country into the neighboring country of Uganda.

The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates that over one million South Sudanese refugees have fled to Uganda over the last year, meaning approximately 1,800 refugees arrive each day. It has become one of the fastest-growing refugee crises in the world, with more than 85 percent of the South Sudanese refugees in Uganda being women and children under the age of 18. One refugee camp, just south of the border called the Adjumani Settlement, has over 210,000 South Sudanese refugees. These settlements often have limited space and resources, including limited water availability, yet thousands of refugees continue to pour into Uganda.

Despite Uganda having its own internal struggles, many experts have applauded the country for maintaining its open borders as well as its progressive approach to asylum. Uganda provides refugees with land to build shelter and grow crops. It allows the South Sudanese refugees the freedom to work, while also giving them access to public services including health care and education.

The Ugandan government is also working to garner additional financial support from other foreign countries including the United States. It hosted a Solidarity Summit in June to raise funds for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda; however, only 21 percent of the $674 million needed was actually received from the countries invited.

Despite the lack of funding, many organizations have provided their assistance to the South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, has provided tremendous medical assistance to many of the refugee camps. Between January and April 2017, Doctors Without Borders provided over 20,000 medical consultations, and delivered over 250 babies and provided their mothers with adequate health care. Not only does Doctors Without provide basic health care, it also provides mental health care services to refugees who have experienced trauma through their displacement.

The government of Ireland also has airlifted over $500,000 of essential relief items, including blankets, shelter construction materials and mosquito nets, to assist the South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. Over the past year, Ireland has spent over $3.5 million in support of the refugees. The country also pledged solidarity and a willingness to support the refugees in any way it can.

Many organizations and countries have shown their support to the South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. However, the country is still in need of desperate financial resources to provide individuals with basic necessities, including food and water. Greater education on the South Sundanese refugee issue around the globe, coupled with additional financial support to fund the nearly $700 million needed, can provide displaced citizens with basic necessities in order to give them the ability to rebuild their lives in Uganda.

– Sarah Jane Fraser

Photo: Flickr

Refugees SheltersThere are about 59 to 67 million refugees and asylum seekers around the world, forced to leave their home to pursue freedom and security. In this journey, shelter alternatives are short; the only real options are refugee camps that organizations have helped establish. In addition, given the geographic and demographic conditions of some camps, the facilities are not adequate to maintain minimum safety requirements.

To resolve this issue, different architecture companies have begun designing modern refugee shelters that can fulfill important needs in tough environments. The following companies have invented innovative shelters that provide basic services such as water, power and protection from extreme weather.

The Better Shelter

Ikea Foundation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) developed the Better Shelter in 2015. It is a safe, long lasting and efficient home that can be built with just four people.

The Better Shelter’s base is made from a galvanized steel frame. The roof and walls are made of polyolefin panels, to protect refugees from strong sunlight exposure. An innovative feature of the facility is the PV System, which is a solar panel installed on the roof that charges an LED light inside of the shelter. The power that the PV obtains during the day can be used for a total of four hours at night. In addition, thanks to a USB port located on the LED light, refugees can charge their cellphones and other electronics with renewable electricity.

The adaptable characteristics of the Better Shelter redefine the space in refugee shelters since it can be placed in different locations. Sections can be added and removed in order to create longer structures or even hold medical equipment.

In 2015, 16,000 units of the Better Shelter were deployed for humanitarian operations world-wide, especially in Nepal and Iraq where there are a considerable number of refugees.

SURI

SURI is a refugee shelter that is easy to ensemble with a low-cost architecture modular system. These features make it faster to transport in many types of emergencies. Suricatta Systems, the creator of the shelter, defines SURI as a Shelter Unit for Rapid Installation.

One of the most important characteristics of the shelter is that each unit can be joined in different directions, providing flexibility in order to create distinct building forms. Moreover, SURI is lightweight, as its walls are designed to be refillable with local materials like sand or debris. Like the Better Shelter, SURI also employs solar panels that provide light inside the home.

An essential advantage of shelter for refugees is the water recollection system. SURI can store rainwater in a tank after it has passed through a filter, in order to convert it in drinkable water. It is expected that SURI will be used in emergencies such as earthquakes and flooding.

Shigeru Ban Architects

Shigeru Ban is a Japanese architect that uses principally recycled materials for his constructions. In 1992, when Rwanda fell into a violent civil war, Shigeru developed a refugee shelter made of cardboard to host Rwandan families that were affected by the war. The structure was convenient given its reusable features, as the buildings made from paper can be easily removed from certain places, and can be easily built again.

After the events in Rwanda, the architect has focused his research on creating facilities built by low-cost materials that can be used in emergencies. Shigeru’s shelters have been implemented in disasters such as the 2011 earthquake in Japan.

With continued philanthropic advancements from companies like these, it may be possible to completely reinvent the space within refugee shelters. In the near future, perhaps all refugees around the globe will have access to clean water, running electricity and a warm shelter.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

German Healthcare: A Broken System for Asylum Seekers?
The German healthcare system continues to grapple with the challenge of the recent influx of about 1.1 million refugees in 2015 alone. Escaping poverty, war and repression, as well as family reunification are among the main reasons people attempt to enter Germany both legally and illegally.

Despite having opened its doors to more refugees than any other European country since 2013, Germany restricts asylum-seekers’ healthcare access to emergency care, treatment for acute diseases and pain, maternity care and vaccinations. Additional care can be provided, however, patients must file various petitions before gaining approval to proceed.

The aim of restricting asylum-seekers’ access to German healthcare dates back to the 1990’s when rising numbers of asylum-seekers from former Yugoslavia created a need to reduce Germany’s pull factor. However, it is evident from various studies that this policy has done nothing to bring down the number of people seeking asylum in the country.

In spite of limiting access to healthcare, the socio-medical system is crumbling with news reports about vaccines not being available for German citizens till 2017 in the normal quantities. Doctors are having to undergo courses in screening and treating diseases like tuberculosis, scabies and psychological trauma.

In addition, there is the cost of material resources like medicines and hospital beds, diagnostic and surgeries that have spiraling economic repercussions. The siphoning of medical services, even in their most basic form, to asylum-seekers, is resented by many German citizens.

However, despite this backlash, there are many reasons for the country to consider providing full access to German healthcare, both for asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants. The most obvious of these is that any communicable disease can skyrocket the economic cost to the country due to a loss in productivity.

In addition, according to experts such as David Ingleby from the University of Amsterdam, research has shown that “denying easy and early access to healthcare not only ignores the right to health but actually increases costs: a new study estimated that since their introduction, these restrictive policies have increased the cost of healthcare by 376-euros per year for each asylum seeker.”

Some states like Bremen and Hamburg have been providing their asylum-seekers with health insurance cards like those used by the general population. These enable direct access to doctors and hospitals without having to apply for a certificate of entitlement.

Officially, the restriction on acute and emergency services remains, but the decision is now moved to the doctor’s medical discretion and no longer made by a municipal administrator.

Another solution being considered is granting anonymous insurance certificates that allow refugees without citizenship proof to see medical personnel without legal repercussions like deportation. In Berlin alone, up to 250,000 people live without any personal identity documents essential to get full medical treatment, making this idea almost a necessity.

In order to provide funding for these and other such policies for less restrictive healthcare, the European Union Health Program released a statement pledging fund actions supporting member states under particular migratory pressure in January this year. Hopefully, with this positive impetus, the German healthcare system will move to a more inclusive model, both for both asylum-seekers and undocumented immigrants.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr