Calls to protect exploited foreign workers in Aus

A proposal to protect international students and foreign workers from deportation in instances of workplace exploitation and allow them to issue entitlement claims has been submitted to the Australian immigration minister.

The proposal, submitted by Sydney-based Redfern Legal Centre, seeks to amend section 499 of the Migration Act to prevent the automatic cancellation of a student’s visa when they have breached the terms as well as combat employee exploitation.

“In our experience, international students frequently have a visa issue associated with their legal problem, and fears about their visa status can prevent these students from seeking advice or asserting their rights,” said Sean Stimson, RLC international student solicitor.

Under current conditions in Australia, international students can work up to 40 hours per fortnight.

But, Stimson said this condition has led to unscrupulous employers intentionally targeting students, coercing them to work in excess of their entitled hours, and then using the threat of deportation to force them into substandard employment conditions.

According to RLC, which provides free legal assistance to the community, international students are particularly vulnerable in areas including housing, employment, consumer scams and issues with their education providers.

“Students we hear from often describe working in ‘slave like’ conditions, receiving pay that is significantly below industry awards,” said Stimson. “This creates a vicious cycle, forcing students to work additional hours to survive. They are then essentially trapped by their employer, who often make threats of deportation if they speak out.”

The proposed changes would also allow international students to legally pursue employers to recover wages

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