Legal workers still face trying times Down Under

Malaysians made up the largest number of people overstaying in Australia in 2018, according to statistics


AS MORE serious actions are being taken on illegal workers across Australia lately, more and more people have finally opted to go through the proper channel and apply for visas that will allow them to go on holiday and work at the same time.

It was reported this year that Malaysians made up the largest number of people overstaying in Australia.

Statistics issued by the Australian Department of Home Affairs revealed that about 10,000 Malaysians had overstayed between 2016 and 2017.

Trailing behind were 6,500 Chinese nationals, 5,170 from the US and 3,700 British nationals, ahead of 2,780 Indonesians and 2,730 Indians.

It was estimated that there are some 62,000 illegals living in the continent as at June 2018, with almost all of them had initially entered the country legally via tourist, work or student visa.

The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) spoke to several people who had obtained valid visas that would allow them to work in Australia, mainly so that their rights and protection in the workplace would be respected.

A 26-year-old law graduate who wished to remain anonymous said she wanted to take a year off after graduating to go somewhere and experience a different culture, but realised she would have to work to support herself.

Australia became her country of choice after she found a good airfare deal, and the fact that the country is fairly close to Malaysia compared to most of the European countries.

“I found a legitimate agent who explained what type of visas I could apply for. I had read stories of farm workers being exploited before this and did not want the same to happen to me,” said the woman from Ipoh.

The agent instructed her to apply for the Work and Holiday Visa (subclass 462), as Malaysia is one of the countries eligible for the temporary visa.

“I know some people who had gone on a 417 visa, and it seemed a lot easier with fewer requirements than the 462,” she said, adding that she managed to land a job beforehand at Barmera in Adelaide.

The 462 visa requires specific educational requirements for passport holders from, among others, Argentina, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, Poland and Uruguay.

The applicants must possess a university qualification, or have completed at least two years of undergraduate university study.

The 417 visa, on the other hand, is a temporary visa for people aged between 18 and 31 who want to work and live in Australia for up to a year, but with minimal requirements.

Passport holders who are eligible for this visa include those from Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and the UK.

Most people, after having accepted into the country, would usually opt for a second-year visa where they are allowed to stay for another year after completing 88 days of regional work.

The types of industries to be eligible for a second-year visa include agriculture (harvesting, cultivation and processing); forestry; fishing and pearling; mining; and some sectors of the construction industry. However, it is not all rosy for those applying for the visa extension.

Some of them had to put up with difficult and dangerous situations fearing that any complaint from their employers would affect the application process.

A Spanish national, who worked at a farm in South Australia, shared his side of story of having to deal with such situations.

“I was there for a good few months before the hostel owner had openly used drugs in front of other occupants towards the end of my visa.

“One night, he had injected himself with what I can only imagine as methamphetamine and went on a full mental trip,” he said.

After being threatened by the owner, the worker took his girlfriend and ran into the bushland for about seven hours as they feared of being attacked.

“When I came back the next day, he had already thrown out our personal items and set them on fire. I was horrified. We later learned that he was schizophrenic.

“Fortunately, we had our passports with us that night. We left and never came back. We might have lost our wages for that month but we didn’t care,” he said.

Another worker from Bullsbrook in Western Australia said while working mainly on a strawberry farm, she and other workers were asked to pick pears, climb up on high ladders holding sharp tools, as well as drive tractors and trailers with no prior training.

“I’m Australian, so I don’t have to stick around and do whatever they told me.

“However, my other mates from China and Korea didn’t have a choice. They had to keep going because they needed to get the employers’ approval for the second-year visa application.

“The hours were long and we frequently sighted dangerous spiders and snakes. The supervisors were rude and often pushed us to work harder and faster all the time,” she told TMR in a telephone interview.

The woman said she left after about three weeks and felt sorry for the foreigners as they had opted to come to work there legally, but still had to endure such a working condition.

“Most workers were afraid to lodge complaints because the supervisors would not sign off on their forms, and that they would not be able to return to work,” she said.

She added that the fear of losing income had driven these workers to keep their chin up and continue working so that they could still send money home.

Meanwhile, Farm Job Australia’s Facebook page administrator told TMR that fruit picking remains the choice for many as it does not require specific skills.

“Most of the jobs posted on the page stated that whether or not a second- year visa is possible. This is to ensure that people are aware if they can stay legally for another year.

“There are many ways to review the places that they are likely to work at. As such, people are encouraged to have a look at those sites before applying,” the administrator said.

A check with several Malaysians on the Facebook page revealed that some of them have no intention to apply for visas.

“Firstly, the visas cost money. In fact, we have to prove our education levels for the 462 visas. Despite all the hassle, the second year is not guaranteed,” one said.