Oz immigration overhaul might spark protests: student leader

The overhaul to Australia's immigration policy has dented the prospects of many migrants for permanent residency and is causing unrest, especially among those who had taken education loans worth thousands of dollars, All International Student Association (AISA) President Navjot Singh said.

Australia has announced new preferred occupation skills list dropping occupations like hairdressing and cookery in favour of doctors, nurses and engineers to crack down on people seeking permanent residency through low-value education courses.

Singh said angry overseas students were likely to take to the streets protesting against the release of the Rudd government's priority skills list, 'The Australian' said.

He said many thousands of overseas students had taken out huge loans against family properties in their homelands to enter the cookery, hairdressing, business and finance courses which are now absent from the list.

"I have had 200 calls in three hours. Many people are really frustrated and disappointed and feel they can't go back home," Singh said.

The government has cut by more than half the number of occupations and professions in the skilled migration programme.

The new skilled occupations list, with an aim to crack down on dodgy colleges who provide such courses to achieve migration, had dashed the residency hopes of thousands of students, Singh said.

They fear their family homes could be repossessed, as that's how they got their education loans of 30,000 dollars to 100,000 dollars, he said.

Many students felt "100 per cent betrayed" by promises of residency by the Australian government, education agents and providers.

Students were likely to take to the streets in protest over the coming weeks, he said.
"The only difference is it won't only be Indian students protesting this time, but students from China and other countries as well," he said.

Immigration agent Karl Konrad supported Singh's concern about debt-laden students protesting in the wake of the list, and urged providers to put counsellors on stand-by.

Thousands of Indian students who come here to study finally hope to migrate permanently.

There has been a strong linkage between studying in Australia and permanent residency offered by the immigration policies of the government that has attracted tens of thousands of young Indians to try their luck Down Under.

Many of these students have taken hefty loans to enrol in courses that offer the prospect of permanent residency.

There are 91,440 Indian students in Australia of which about 20,000 more have finished studying and are on visas seeking permanent residency. Almost half of these live in Victoria, mostly in Melbourne.

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