Monday, October 3, 2011

Surge in numbers of Iranian boat arrivals in Australia

Sending ANYBODY back to the Iranian madhouse really would be cruel

IRANIANS have overtaken Afghans to become the largest group of asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia, and have been labelled "troublemakers" by immigration officials who are unhappy that they are unable to send home those who fail refugee status.

Iranian boat arrivals leapt eightfold, from 197 in 2009-10, to 1549 last year. At the same time, visa success rates have plummeted, from 100 per cent in 2008, to 27 per cent last year.

Unlike Afghans fleeing villages, the Iranian asylum seekers are middle-class, well-educated, secular or Christian, with good English. It is exactly these vocal, motivated, urban Iranians who have been forced to flee an Islamic regime that views even teachers as "political" if they raise human rights objections, community leaders say.

But immigration officials take a different view, accusing recently arrived Iranians who had received initial rejections for refugee status of being agitators in the Christmas Island and Villawood riots. "Contumacious behaviour, wilful disobedience," Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe told a parliamentary inquiry.

The federal government says there is a large number of Iranians now on "negative pathways" but who cannot be sent back to Iran, and it is considering its options.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said Iran will not accept the return of failed asylum seekers "despite many attempts by Australia" to strike an agreement. No country in the world is returning Iranians involuntarily.

Siamak Ghahreman, chairman of the Iranian Community Association, says any Iranian sent back to Tehran after applying for refugee status in a foreign country would "simply be killed".

Iranian refugee and women's rights activist Nicky Danesh says more than 12 members of her family have been shot, executed or are missing. She would prefer not to live in exile, and says many tertiary-educated Iranian refugees in Australia have to drive taxis or clean, so they don't come here for economic benefit.

"We are victims of Islamic fundamentalism. Even middle-class women have absolutely no rights and girls can be married at the age of nine, which is sexual abuse," she says.

Mr Ghahreman says: "It is especially the more educated people - that don't practise religion the way the government wants them to - that are persecuted."

Of the 384 Iranians who came to Australia by plane and sought asylum last year, 96 per cent were successful, far higher than the boat success rate.

Mr Ghahreman said people are risking drowning - and hundreds go missing before they get to Australia - because "by boat it is easier and a bit cheaper than getting a false passport to come to Australia by plane". Many more have fled to Canada, the United States and Turkey.

He spoke to Villawood detainees during the riots and encouraged them to stop protesting. "What they did was not right - but I understand why they did it. They were under so much pressure before they got to Australia, and then to be detained, they couldn't take it any more," he said.

Nima Neyshaboury, a minister at St Paul's Church in Carlingford, New South Wales, visits Villawood to hold weekly bible studies classes for Iranian detainees. He sees a "sad situation" where Iranian Christians who left behind family have fallen into depression after being detained for 15, 20 months, and in one case two years.


Life After College for Undocumented Immigrants Paved with Obstacles

Why not take their "skills" back to their country of origin. There would be no "obstacles" there

Even with a college degree - the road for educated undocumented immigrants is paved with no.

No immediate pathway to legal status under current federal immigration law.

No jobs because employers cannot legally hire them.

No guarantee of a better future.

When Rhode Island became the thirteenth state to allow in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants at public colleges, supporters heralded the move as one that would give students the kind of advanced education they need to succeed in the work force. But students who are not here legally may still face a major obstacle even with the benefit of a college degree.

"I know of students who have graduated magna cum laude and top honors in their colleges, but right now they're working minimum wage in restaurants," said Antonio Albizures-López, 20, who came to the U.S. from Guatemala when he was 1.

Albizures-López, who is pursuing legal residency, says the best solution is passage of federal legislation, known as the DREAM Act, which provides a pathway to legal residency for college students.

The Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education, which oversees the state's three public higher education institutions, unanimously approved in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants last week, effective in the fall of 2012. The General Assembly had failed repeatedly to take action on legislation that's been introduced year after year.

Twelve states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin — have laws allowing the children of undocumented immigrants to receive in-state rates if they meet certain requirements, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, in urging the Board of Governors to adopt the change, said it would allow more Rhode Islanders to attend college, help build a stronger work force and boost an economy that is among the nation's most troubled.

Research varies on how much resident tuition rates for undocumented immigrants increase enrollment. A 2010 paper co-authored by Aimee Chinn, an economist at the University of Houston, did not find a sizeable increase overall for 18- to -24-year-olds in the 10 states studied, although it did find that Mexican men in their 20s attended at modestly higher rates. It also found that even in-state tuition may still be too expensive, especially since undocumented immigrant students do not qualify for federal education aid.

By contrast, a study this year by the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, which looked at an array of research on the issue, said that in-state tuition has led to an enrollment increase among undocumented immigrants, on average, of 31 percent in the places it has been implemented.

The Urban Institute has estimated that 65,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from high school in the U.S. every year.

But even if more students go on to attend public colleges and universities with the benefit of in-state rates, a big question remains: how will they fare in the work force after they graduate, even with a degree that traditionally makes it easier to get the kind of high-skill, high-paying job not available to those who finish only high school.

"Even with a college degree, there hasn't been a more general immigration reform that would enable these kids to get a job once they have their degree," said Chinn.

URI's in-state tuition is $9,824, compared to $25,912 for out-of-state.

Terry Gorman, executive director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, opposes in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants. He cites a 1996 federal law that laid out certain restrictions on undocumented immigrant benefits, and says it's a violation of that statute to provide in-state tuition to students who came here illegally, on the basis of residence, if the same break is not available to all students — including those from out of state.

Students paying out-of-state rates at California institutions mounted a legal challenge on those grounds, but the state Supreme Court upheld the in-state tuition policy, saying it did not conflict with federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court in June declined to hear the case.

But Gorman also maintains that the policy change offers students in the U.S. illegally a "false hope" about their post-graduation prospects. "This is going to be an educated population that can't do anything with their education because they're illegal aliens," he said. "What do they do? They can't work."

Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, who conducted the Latino Policy Institute study at Roger Williams, points out that, while that's the law, it isn't necessarily the reality. She said that under current enforcement practices, many who are here illegally are in fact being hired. That being the case, she said, they may as well be college-educated.

Under the new policy in Rhode Island, in-state rates will be available only to undocumented immigrants' children who have attended a high school in the state for at least three years and graduated or received a GED. Students also must commit to seek legal status as soon as they are eligible, or lose their resident tuition.

Supporters of the policy change say it would affect approximately 140 students in Rhode Island.


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