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July 28, 2009

The visa-rd of Oz

I've had two productive days now. Days where I've maniacally cleaned the house, ticked off stuff from my to-do list and written some. Yesterday was class-day and after some workshopping and one-on-one with the professor, I was at the coffee shop for a much-needed sugar-hit. As I collected my cappuccino, joked about my sugar intake -- two-and-a-half teaspoons -- and extended my arm to pay, a girl barged in.

She was Indian, perhaps 17-18 years old, looking scared and tired. She pushed the others lining up for coffee and demanded in broken English, "Iwanjoeb." The cafe girl couldn't understand her. The Indian girl clutched her bag closer to her chest and repeated, "Iwanjoeb." Her accent was... unintelligible. The others around were staring at her, some confused, some amused, some irritated. I was still holding out the change for my coffee. The cafe girl looked at me.

I asked the Indian girl, "Naukri chahiye?" (You want a job?) She looked at me, scared, nodded. There was a boy standing behind her, barely older than her, looking angry... I took them outside, made them sit. They obeyed... they were so trusting, it was scary and was making me very uncomfortable.

"Do you have a CV?" I asked.
She looked confused.
She still looked confused.
"Do you have a bio-data?"
Light finally dawned.
"Nahin. No, I don't have," was her response.
"You will need a bio-data to get a job."
"I did not know that... I don't know where to get one," she replied.
"You don't 'get' one, you have to write one."
"What do I have to write in it? I don't know."
I was stunned.
"When did you come here?"
"Three months back."
"India... Punjab...(city name)*."
"Student visa?"
"What college?"
"XXXX* university."
"What are you studying there?"
"Who told you to come to this cafe and ask for a job?"
She hesitated now, looked at the boy, who so far had not said a word.
"They said I should walk into places and ask..."
"Have you worked before?"
She shook her head. No.

I knew it was a stupid question. She came from a small town in Punjab, right out of school. From what I know about similar backgrounds, she probably ever only stepped out of the house to go to school, perhaps accompanied by her father or brother. I asked her about the "they", she looked uncomfortable and began fidgeting with the strap of her bag. On further questioning she mentioned she had cleared her 10+2 (grade 12) last year with "non-medical" and a 60 per cent. 'Non-medical' for those outside India means she studied physics, chemistry and mathematics. I asked her if she had cleared it under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which is the national education board. She had done her schooling under the Punjab state board. Firstly, she studied under a state board; secondly, with her marks, she would not get into a 'good' college in India. And she is here in Australia, doing a multimedia course...

In my conversation with her, she could barely manage to speak basic English. Even her Hindi was laced with a thick Punjabi accent. The boy didn't speak at all and looked around at everyone suspiciously. I didn't know what to do... I pulled out my resume and showed it to her. She asked if it was okay for her to simply mention her school degree and the college she was studying in... I said yes. We parted ways. She perhaps went away hopeful, I remained shaken up.

I came back home and checked the website for the college the girl mentioned. It provides courses in multimedia, hairdressing and community welfare amongst others. All vocational courses. It has a student services section that apparently provides help on accommodation service, airport pickup and also has a job club. According to the 'job club' website, students are provided help in the form of, "... students are shown how to write their resume in English and are given individual advice on how and where to look for a job during the session... . students assistance with finding a job."

If those are the services provided by the job club, why was that girl walking around without a resume? Without any clue on how to go about things? Did she not approach the job club? Or did she not understand what the job club said? When speaking to her, it was apparent her English was far inferior to the minimum needed to continue any life here.

On checking the college website, the basic requirement of English for a multimedia course is a score of 5.5 on the IELTS course. Now the IELTS exam has four sections, one of them is spoken English. If she couldn't say "I want a job" clearly and could not even string two sentences... How did she clear the IELTS? How did she get a seat in the college?

Every week here, there have been stories in the media about the entire Indian-student-visa-scam. The Australian media is going a darned good job of looking deeper. Quite unlike the Indian media, which created a furore about students being beaten up in Australia, labelled the country 'racist' and has since not bothered to delve into the subject any further. On Monday night, TV channel ABC1's investigative programme, 4 Corners, had a very good investigation on the issue. This episode was called Holy Cash Cows.

Reporter Wendy Carlisle looked at the reasons behind the rise in the number of Indian students in vocational courses over the last five years, the scams operating in Australia and India that allow unqualified students to come into the country -- forging IELTS scores, work qualifications etc -- and further migration scams that provide similar fraudulent documents to enable such students (and others) to apply for permanent residency in Australia.

Who is to blame for this?

Is it the Australian govt that needs to have some sort of checking system in place, but does not seem to be doing it? Is it the education and migration agents who are providing wrong information and fraudulent documents? Is it the private universities here that are taking in students and then turning a blind eye towards helping them? Is it the Indian govt, which is happy blaming the Australian govt but doesn't want to take any responsibility for its citizens?

Or is it the students who are looking for a better life at any cost and by any means? It is implicit there is a section of students who come to Australia to eventually seek permanent residency (PR). However, not all students do so. There are those who merely seek an education and go back. What needs to be understood here is that just BECAUSE a student is applying for an Australian permanent residency does NOT mean the Australian government will grant them one.

Even if a student completes his/her 'points' -- points define eligibility for PR, you get points for the education you've had, work experience, etc -- the prerogative to GRANT a permanent residency lies with the Australian government. You do not automatically get permanent residency. Those Australians whose major problem/fear seems to be that Indians/other immigrants will "come here and not go back" need to understand that no one can forcibly stay in this country. The Australian government can refuse.

According to figures quoted in news reports, there are 90,000 Indian students. All of them are NOT staying on in Australia. In fact it is ridiculous to think so. How many out of those 90,000 students are being given PR? If, according to reports, "so many" Indian and other international students are getting in and staying on... Who is allowing them? Why?

*Names withheld back to avoid identification.
Pic courtesy: AFP


Silvara said...

I know....and it's sad that she is becoming part of the 'norm'.

I REALLY wanted to see the 4 corner's ep but had to work late that day...I read in the paper a few days aso that the undercover journalist girl who was investigating the scams got beaten up!!


the cowlick said...

Saw so many desperate Indians trying to get PR when I was there and always wondered, is it really So bad in India that they want to get out in this way?

People had taken loans of lakhs of rupees to get to Aus and were doing small jobs there.. and didn't mind them either. Some hadn't been back to their family in India for 3-4 years.. coz they hadn't been able to collect enough money to go back.. and this wasn't the low-income, rural background group. They were MBAs from Pune..

Some pledged to work and live in rural areas, others forged their English exam.. all for PR.

Kartikey said...

Hi Eve,
Have shared this story with others. A perspective, 'not arm-chair'.
An Indian Australian told me about the trend of admitting even the "lesser" students there. His reasons related to population and worldwide culture.

PS said...

hi eve, have been an avid reader of your blog for a few months now. love the way you right and your views.

i sometimes wonder why we indians think so much about going "abroad" and settling down. i remember all my batchmates in collegewanted to get married to an NRI. i never wanted to do that. however, as fate would have it met someone and got married and since he lives in canada i had to move here. in the past year i have realised that some people are so desperate that they would go to any length to get out of the country. without realisisng that mostly anywhere else they will be treated as 2nd class citizens and sometimes looked down upon. life is certyainly not better in lots of ways "abroad". hopefully the youth will understand that in time and learn.

DewdropDream said...

Yeah I've heard of plenty of cases here as well of people getting their visa by rather crooked means and the unfairness of it really bothers me.

What was the story with the boy though?

Tass said...

you want something so desperately that you will go for it anyway.

Even if this means fooling yourself into thinking that you are good enough or just hoping that one day you will be, hopefully, once you reach that 'right' place - aus. in this case.

Perakath said...

Dude how do these people pass their visa interviews??

Mystique said...

the mind boggles.

Me! said...


What I found funny were the 4 Google ads right below this post:

• Study and Settle in NZ…
• Residency in Australia…
• Study in UK?...
• “India’s Top Engg College” (whatever ‘engg’ is) :p

Very well-voiced post.

Somehow also brings to mind something a Japanese guy said in Rising Sun:

“…If America don’t want Japanese to buy. Then America don’t sell!”

DewdropDream said...

@ Me!: 'engg' would be the common abbreviation of 'engineering'.

Me! said...



Thank you! (gracias/merci, futre vous)

Sankoobaba said...

i am shaken...but not stirred...
ur quote>>
""Firstly, she studied under a state board; secondly, with her marks, she would not get into a 'good' college in India. And she is here in Australia, doing a multimedia course...""
justifies everything...
money gave them a chance to study in australia...not talent/aptitude...
which is sad...considering I have met brighter kids..who are more smarter but do mundane jobs.. just to bring home some money...
"money rules the world"
who is to blame?? nobody...

Anonymous said...

I don't agree completely. Of course the Australian government can "refuse" to give PR to someone who is otherwise eligible. But the refusal really has to be reasoned out and cannot be done on an arbitrary basis. Technically the Aussie govt has full rights, but so does the Aussie Parliament to dissolve all existing laws. It just doesn't work that way.

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