Discuss about the Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms.
This report aims at analyzing the citizenship policy changes recommended and implemented by Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull. The changes in policy aim at making more rigid evaluation criteria for immigrants wanting to apply for Australian citizenship. PM Turnbull has recommended longer waiting periods (while being a resident) before application, a stricter citizenship test and a higher level of command over English than was previously required. This paper is being written on behalf of “Immigrant Aid Australia” which is a social-aid agency, aimed at providing humanitarian migrants with financial and social aid (mainly social integration). The amendments to the social policy and the implications it has on the focus groups aided by this organization gives rise to the need for such a critical analysis. Humanitarian migrants who have migrated to Australia under the Refugee or Humanitarian program ideally seek citizenship. However, their first language in most cases is not English. This poses a practical impossibility for them to meet the proficiency criteria recommended by PM Turnbull. PM Turnbull has stated that the rigidity of the citizenship test is to determine if the applicants are aligned with Australian values but in most cases even if the Humanitarian migrants in question do adhere to Australian values they would not be able to successfully clear the language assessment. As per the 2016-17 Migration Programme Report, the total number of migrants was 183,608, out of which 123,567 belonged to the skill stream (who presumably would be able to pass the tests), 56,220 belonged to the family stream and 421 belonging to the special eligibility stream (Hawthorne, 2014). This revised Citizenship policy covers all migrants coming into Australia and thus is of national concern. The theories of social inclusion dictate the facilitation of those who are granted asylum into the social construct. According to Robertson (2014), as the migrants belonging to the family and special streams are not induced or sponsored by employers their level of education and skill cannot be presumed. However, it will be brought out in this report that humanitarian migrants granted asylum equally contribute to the workforce.
The current changes in the policy pose a radical change in the citizenship criteria that has been followed in the past. The one year wait period before application for citizenship has been extended to 4 years. This means that migrants who have been granted asylum in the country would have to wait for a period of 4 years as residents before they can apply for citizenship. The second change to the criteria is the Citizenship test which consists of 20 multiple choice questions, the new test is to include components that test the reading, writing and listening skills of the applicant and would include questions that test the morality of the applicant. This is based on the idea that citizenship applicants must adhere to Australian values, especially those relating to freedom to practice any religion and gender equality.
As discussed above the current policy would impact all migrants within the jurisdiction of the Australian government and thus is an issue of national importance. This policy measure also effects the human rights of migrants from all over the world (who’re migrating to Australia) and thus would be in breach of the United Nations International Migration Policy (Kritz, 2015). Thus, this would also attract action from the commonwealth.
Impact on Humanitarian Migrants:
The impact of this current policy on the group of unskilled migrants would be detrimental to say the least. The migrants who are granted asylum within the territory of Australia have a right to seek citizenship (Merla, 2015). In the absence of such a status, they would be deprived of crucial rights conferred upon the citizens through Australian law. Specifically the right to vote which means that though the migrants are subject to laws and policies formulated by the government they are not entitled to vote on the same. The one year period was more rational as the migrants would first get used to the laws and regulations governing the country and then subsequently decide on wanting citizenship. The four year waiting period is likely to be construed as unreasonable and would deprive the migrants of the opportunity to be represented as a part of the Australian workforce and population. Further, humanitarian migrants who seek citizenship are likely to face immense difficulty in comprehending and answering the citizenship test which largely focuses on testing their proficiency in English. Resultantly, being unable to comprehend the questions asked the migrants would not be able to prudently address the questions and hence the answers given may reflect a non-alignment to Australian values.
Consequently the migration rate in Australia would face a staggering decline and all migrants who have already been granted asylum would be unable to obtain citizenship due to a language barrier. This would lead to a situation of differential treatment based on one’s proficiency in English. This also meant that even if a large percentage of humanitarian migrants do adhere to Australian values they would not be able to conclusively prove the same in the citizenship test. This can thus be termed as discrimination, based on the skill level of the migrants. This form of discrimination is reasonable in terms of employment (where level of professional skill is the deciding criteria) but in terms of a guarantee to safeguard the rights of the population this form of discrimination is wholly arbitrary and unreasonable (Tummala-Narra & Claudius, 2013). Thus, though the changes in the policy majorly affect the rights of migrants the Australian economy as a whole would face consequences for the implementation of this policy.
Key issues and considerations:
The first key issue that must be looked at is how Humanitarian migrants contribute to the workforce and thus are contributors to the Australian economy. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) after tracking the migration experience of approximately 2400 migrants belonging to the humanitarian migrant category (Jansen et al., 2013). It found that one fifth of these migrants were able to find work within 18 months of their migration to Australia. These statistics were also in contrast to earlier studies that indicated only seven percent of them could be employed within the first 6 months from the date of migration. The AIFS also concluded that due to the hardships faced by this group they were institutionalized by the circumstances to be more dedicated employees (Baldassar & Merla, 2013). Their urgent need for adequate employment and a source of livelihood ensured their work ethics would adhere to the highest standards. Thus, humanitarian migrants actively contribute to the economic growth of Australia and conspicuously contribute to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. They also invariably are subject to tax laws and thus contribute to the government’s funds. However being this actively present in the Australian workforce they are denied the right to citizenship despite being participants in the developmental process of the entire country. These suggested changes would thus deprive them of human rights that should be ideally available to any long-term resident of Australia.
The second issue that must be analyzed is that applicants must establish their social and cultural into Australian society though evidence that they are part of clubs or hold jobs within the Australian society. However, the wait for the citizenship will exclude a lot of these humanitarian immigrants from obtaining employment due to their lack of confirmed citizenship. Moreover, with the primacy given over proficiency in English a lot of humanitarian immigrants would not be able to explain their job roles or their social inclusion. Ideally it should be the host state’s responsibility to ensure smooth integration into the society and the present policy stand point strays away from that monumentally. It may be viewed as an attempt to deter citizenship applications.
The third issue that needs to be looked at is the growth of crime due to the implementation of such a policy. Immigrants who have not been sufficiently integrated into Australian society may be more inclined to turn to criminal activities. The immigrant crime rate in Australian has been much lower compared to the 1950s as most immigrants at that time were fleeing criminals demanding asylum (Cahill & Taft, 2017). However, with a system that makes obtaining citizenship increasingly difficult it can be reasonably inferred that immigrants would be more prone to act as social deviants (Wilkins, 2013).
The fourth issue is the humanitarian obligation that Australia has towards immigrants who are unskilled and are not proficient in English. It is the responsibility of the sovereign to aid these immigrants in becoming a part of the Australian society as a whole (Jensen, 2014). It is an indirect duty on the government to try and imbibe values that adhere to the societal standards prevailing at that time.
The final issue that must be analyzed is the humanitarian gap that the policy creates on the livelihood of the humanitarian entrants. They have basic human rights and are hence entitled to seek employment and other basic needs. Denying them access these would be a gross infringement of their human rights (Phillips, 2015). Moreover, citizenship would entitle them the right to vote and anyone who is a resident of a certain jurisdiction and abides by the laws of particular sovereign must be afforded the opportunity to vote on the effectiveness of a sovereign. The denial of this right makes them more likely to turn towards crime and deviance. This would as a result lead to discourse and criminal activities within the Australian society and hence would be detrimental to the functioning of society as a whole.
To conclude, Prime Minister Turnbull’s changes in the citizenship test ushers in a brand new era that seeks to deter immigration into the country. Immigration though financially draining in most cases can also bring in financial gain in certain cases (especially in case of international students and skilled labour). The current policies are inclined towards offering citizenship to these classes however Australian has a humanitarian obligation to aid immigrants who did not learn English as a first language and are otherwise intellectually challenged by virtue of their domicile or the skill set obtained from the country they hail from. The present policies do not provide for any form of aid and the following recommendations maybe included in order to balance the detrimental effects of the implemented policy:
The application time maybe kept at 1 year with a 3 year evaluation process. This would still ensure that the immigrants spend a considerable amount of time in Australia before they are granted citizenship but would however make documents available to them to show that they have enrolled for the process and are awaiting evaluation. This would not guarantee all rights as a citizen to them but would invariably help them prove that they are awaiting citizenship through these documents.
The second part would be government funded language classes aimed for unskilled and all other immigrants who are not as proficient with English as the test demands. These classes could be undertaken once applications are made (following recommendation 1) and could help these immigrants secure the required grade in the Citizenship test. These classes could go on for a period of three years (which would be the waiting time) and thus would ensure that these immigrants are sufficiently trained in English to comprehend and answer the questions.
The final recommendation would be the integration of Australian values into the curriculum of the English classes. This would further enhance their chances of passing the citizenship test and would also inform them of what is expected from a member of Australian society. This would also help facilitate social conformity.
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