More than one million migrant workers and international students have been left behind in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The shut down of huge parts of the Australian economy has left hundreds of thousands unemployed. But most people on working and international student visas are not eligible for any federal government support.
Migrant workers play a big role in the farming sector as well as industries like hospitality and retail. The fees international students pay are also crucial for the education sector which contributes $39 billion annually.
As the crisis began to hit, Scott Morrison crudely told migrants on visas that they could either dip into their superannuation savings, or go home.
The billions they have added to the economy was worth nothing to the government who made clear, “our priority is on supporting Australians”.
This cruel response leaves many in a desperate situation. Lots of countries have closed their borders which means even some of those who want to go back to their home country can’t.
Migrant workers often have very little or nothing in their superannuation accounts because many are in low paid jobs. Some are not employed “on the books”.
Morrison’s approach also stokes up dangerous divisions between migrants and local workers. Already we have seen a rise in racist attacks and abuse thanks to the xenophobic propaganda peddled by much of the mainstream press.
Instead of isolating at home, many migrants not eligible for government support will be forced to put themselves at risk by going out to find work. From a health point of view the government’s policy is irresponsible.
But even from a financial point of view the money to cover their expenses exists. The richest 1% in Australia own more than 22% of the nation’s wealth, and some have actually gotten richer because of the pandemic!
If these people were taxed at a much higher rate welfare support for migrant workers and international students could be easily paid for.
By Triet Tran