‘Life torn across borders’: Migrants mourn Australian dream

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Some migrants are leaving Australia after nearly two years of some of the world’s toughest border controls.

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When Chaz Arneson decided to move from Singapore to Australia in 2019, he was hoping to live in a freer and more open society, even if it meant higher taxes. After experiencing nearly two years of the country’s extreme pandemic restrictions, the 32-year-old lawyer is on the verge of packing up and leaving.

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Since Australia closed its borders in March 2020, Chase, who is a Canadian citizen, has been unable to leave the country if he hopes to return, isolating him from friends and family, whose there is no end.

“Life torn across borders is hell,” Arneson, who came to Australia on a four-year work visa that offers a path to permanent residency, told Al Jazeera.

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“Just ‘leaving’ doesn’t mean just leaving my career and home here that I’ve built, but leaving my partner and friends here. Still living means indefinite separation from family. I give my parents their Can’t justify not seeing as age and nieces and nephews, some of whom I haven’t seen for half my life. My life is cut in half and it feels indefinitely suspended.”

While Arneson accepted an initial border closure and “pulled it out” during Melbourne’s 262-day lockdown, he lost confidence in the government when it allowed citizens and permanent residents to hold skilled visa holders overseas before seeing their loved ones. I started giving permission to leave.

Arneson suspects the borders will be eased any time soon or that even if they do, they do not face the risk of being stranded overseas.

Following the emergence of the Omicron edition last month, the Australian government announced it would “pause” plans to welcome the return of skilled migrants and international students for two weeks from 1 December. The prime minister’s office said the move would allow officials to assess the version and that the government would continue to take “evidence-based action” so that the country can “open up safely, and stay open safely as we battle with the virus.” learn to live.”

“What this means to me is that if we see further delays or future closures, especially more than what is seen in other countries, I will have to leave,” Arneson said. “Not out of anger, but simply because it is sustainable and inhumane. It is also wrong, and this is where I begin to question my commitment to this country more existentially.”

Australia has implemented some of the toughest border controls in the world during the pandemic [File: Bianca De Marchi/EPA-EFE]

Tens of thousands of other expatriate, undergraduate and international students cannot enter Australia, despite spending thousands of dollars on visas, relocation costs and education fees.

Saad Ahmed, stranded in Pakistan for 21 months on a temporary postgraduate visa, told Al Jazeera that he felt his life was being ruined.

“We have serious mental health problems, dealing with anxiety, not being able to sleep well,” said Ahmed, who studies professional accounting in Melbourne. “Our families and parents are suffering with us because they are concerned about our temporary graduate visas.”

Ahmed, who is among about 14,000 postgraduate visa holders stranded abroad, said it was unfair that they were allowed to apply for replacement visas at the original cost of 1,680 Australian dollars ($1,206) under the “concessions” given by the government. Will have to wait till July. ,

“We are requesting the government to just bring the date forward and give us visas so that we can finally come back because three years is really a long time,” he said. “And a lot of people are considering moving elsewhere because they don’t want to wait for three years. I, myself, am looking for other options like the UK because I need to plan my life.”

The decline in migration has profound implications for Australia’s economy, which before the pandemic relied on population growth to power a record-breaking 30-year streak of uninterrupted growth. Amid net departures of 96,000 people in the last fiscal year, the Treasury projected population growth will slow to 0.2 per cent in 2020-21 and 0.4 per cent in 2021-22 – the lowest rate in more than a century.

In October, Fitch Ratings predicted that migration would not recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, with GDP shrinking by about 2 percent by 2026 because of the pandemic’s lack of focus.

The country is already grappling with a chronic skill shortage, with some companies offering sign-on bonuses for the first time in years.

‘Source of tax revenue’

In an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey conducted last December, one in five businesses reported having difficulty finding qualified employees.

Labor shortages have prompted some business groups, including the Australian Chamber of Commerce, to call for an increase in annual migrant intake after borders reopen.

In October, New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrott declared his belief in a “big NSW” after a newspaper published proposals leaked from his office that called for Australia to accept two million immigrants over the next five years. was recommended.

Gabriella D’Souza, an economist at Monash University in Melbourne, told Al Jazeera it was difficult to say how much Australia could have spent to isolate immigrants before the devastating damage to the economy, but said the country’s policies were “low and became defensive”. Vaccination rate close to 80 percent.

“Extraordinarily migrating to Australia is looking less and less like an exciting prospect,” D’Souza said. “I am an expatriate myself and I have a lot of friends who are reconsidering their decision to come here. As far as people wanting to come here are concerned, chances are they may decide to move to Canada and elsewhere in the UK.

For expatriates like Arneson, there is a bitter sense that the only value of newcomers is “a source of tax revenue, and yet not an appreciable one”.

“The government emphasizes that skilled migrants are essential to the recovery and future of this country, and to that point, they are right,” he said. “Yet his actions make it clear that, at best, he doesn’t see the humanity of people like me – let alone respect, who contribute far more than us. , and that too is short-lived.”

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