Protection of temporary migrants is now a 'public health issue'

Protecting temporary migrants will help to protect us all during the coronavirus crisis.

7/04/2020 4:50:00 AM

Opinion: We are all in this public health crisis together and we no longer have the luxury to exclude. COVID-19 does not discriminate based on visa, residency or citizenship status and nor should our policies responding to it.

Protecting temporary migrants will help to protect us all during the coronavirus crisis.

Very large text sizeIdeology is a luxury we can enjoy in good times, but the realities of the COVID-19 health and economic crises demand pragmatic solutions.To its credit, the Australian government shelved its union-busting agenda, instead collaborating with the ACTU to protect businesses and workers affected by the COVID-19 shutdown through the new JobKeeper payment.

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ACTU Secretary Sally McManus.Credit:Alex EllinghausenBut new policies hold firm to the government’s immigration policy of restricting rights for the large population of temporary migrant workers. On Saturday Immigration Minister Alan Tudge confirmed that while visa holders are ‘valuable to the Australian economy and way of life’, ‘Australians and permanent residents’ are the priority.

Our research, published in the current issue ofThe Economic and Labour Relations Review, demonstrates that successive policy changes since the 1990s have increasingly marginalised temporary migrant workers.AdvertisementOur findings highlight the adverse impacts of government policies that have imposed barriers to temporary migrants’ ability to move between employers and to protections offered by unions and the Fair Work Ombudsman. Other policies have narrowed pathways to permanent residency and citizenship and restricted their access to public services.

Australians have collectively ignored overwhelming evidence that these policies contribute to widespread wage and superannuation theft in part because we rely on temporary migrant workers to perform dirty, dangerous and demeaning jobs in food services, delivery, retail, horticulture, health, social care and cleaning. These jobs, and therefore temporary migrants, are crucial in the COVID-19 crisis.

Nonetheless, many temporary migrants have lost their jobs during the current shutdown.Most temporary migrants are excluded from the JobKeeper payment and other forms of welfare assistance including Medicare. Under new policies announced on Saturday, many may now access superannuation, but this is illusory for victims of wage and superannuation theft. Temporary Skill Shortage visa holders, sponsored for up to four years, must still leave the country within 60 days of losing their jobs.

For those who cannot support themselves or be useful to immediate labour market needs, the Minister says it's time to go home. But current restrictions have made international travel almost impossible. Ironically our borders have become more secure, but it is now as difficult to leave Australia as it is to enter for citizens and temporary visa holders alike.

Stephen Clibborn, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney Business School.The government rightly encourages us to self-isolate and seek medical assistance if we show symptoms rather than risking further spread of the virus. But continued exclusionary temporary migration and social security policies may now exacerbate our public health crisis.

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Exclusion from the JobKeeper payment and other social security may push temporary migrants to work when sick and into the informal labour market. While some state governments have waived COVID-19-related medical costs for temporary residents, restricted access to Medicare may discourage them from medical visits.

We are all in this public health crisis together and we no longer have the luxury to exclude.COVID-19 does not discriminate based on visa, residency or citizenship status and nor should our policies responding to it.Chris F Wright, a senior lecturer specialising in immigration and labour markets at the University of Sydney Business School.

Credit:For many decades, Australia had a highly inclusive immigration system where virtually all migrants had permanent residency with full access to employment and social rights.The Australian government should return to this approach and extend protections available to citizens to all temporary migrants, following the Portuguese government’s recent example.

Australia is a nation of immigrants with a workforce of immigrants. Temporary migrants contribute greatly to our economy and society: it’s why we encouraged them to Australia in the first place. Now we must reciprocate. Not only is it fair, it’s in our collective interest.

Dr Stephen Clibborn is Senior Lecturer and Dr Chris F Wright is Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Business School. This article draws upon research published in: A guest-worker state? The declining power and agency of migrant labour in Australia

Read more: The Sydney Morning Herald »

Put Pell back in jail! For those stranded in Australia, the Immigration Minister to discuss and secure a Financial Welfare support plan from their respective Embassies in Australia. Ppl not stranded to return to country of origin. All of these ppl r not Australia’s responsibility Amen. Have a heart Australia and follow the ACTU

We are not the world's hospital. Our obligation to put Australians FIRST must exceed our 'obligations' to the UN and other Internationalists, and we need to deport undesirables now regardless of CV19 or no CV19. Crazy man-hater ! the problem is we can’t afford it. Australia is already providing the most generous support in the world. Now we are already talking that we will have a huge budget deficit and take many years to pay off

My fellow Australians look how fast your civil liberties, freedom of movement and democratic rights disappeared. For those of you who wondered how Nazi Germany came into being this is exactly how it started. GO HOME how thick in the head is the left?

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Coronavirus testing expands across NSW as state's death toll hits 19Bondi Beach has opened a coronavirus drive-through clinic, with other areas saying they are ready to work with NSW Health. Laura_R_chung pallavisinghal_ There are almost no cases in NSW what the fuck is wrong with your tiny minds, the population of NSW is 8.6 million not a few thousand Laura_R_chung pallavisinghal_ The expansion of testing relies upon the general public informing a medical practitioner that they may have the possibility of being infected with the plague. An interesting concept when most of the public can't distinguish between the the flu and a heavy cold.