Thursday, July 18, 2013

Blogging from Prague #7

Shifting away from the European continent in a study of comparative immigration policies leads to interesting contrasts. For example, who would think of China as being an immigrant-receiving nation? China has long been a country of emigrants. But today, even China has undocumented immigration challenges. Since the 1980s, a phenomenon of “foreign laborers” has drawn the attention of officials. Individuals enter China surreptitiously becoming engaged in an underground or grey economy and finding occupations in a variety of arenas—including as performers in night clubs and other entertainment enterprises to attract local residents.

With China’s application to reenter the World Trade Organization in the late 1990s, changes had to be made China’s approach on immigration. So major changes, especially in 2004, have led to permanent resident status for immigrant without residency limitations.

China admits refugees as well. In September 1982, China became a signatory to the UN 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, agreeing to assume international obligations and provide asylum for those with refugee status. Since then, close to half million refugees have been accepted—mainly ethnic Chinese from Indochina, but also significant numbers of ethnic Koreans from the border with North Korea.

Australia’s long and sordid history with race and immigration continues to experience some tumult. As is well known, Australia’s assimilationist policies have resulted in the suppression and disruption of Aboriginal culture and the annihilation of a large proportion of the Aboriginal  population. Australia’s race and ethnic relations had been based on the assumption of British racial and cultural superiority (that’s why Australia showed a strong preference for British immigrants and selected European countries). Fear of Asian immigration resulted in clear quotas that left Asians out.

In 1973, the white Australia policy was repealed and ethnic discrimination clauses removed from immigration requirements. But much of this was challenged immediately, with the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 and a backlash against undocumented boat people from Southeast Asia. In fact, 9/11 didn’t help either. Indefinite detention is used as a deterrent to asylum seekers---a dark side of Australia immigration policy for sure. Fear of Islam has risen in Australia as a result of 9/11 as well.

Studies do show, however, that immigrants benefit the Australian economy immensely. And although adjustment to Australian society is greatly aided if one speaks English, many Australians are protesting anti-immigrant sentiment and the image of Australia as unwelcome to and uncaring about genuine refugees and immigrants.


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