RLC in the Media: Work visas: students often forced to breach conditions, lawyers say

Solicitors from Redfern Legal Centre are calling for greater leniency for students coerced into breaching their visa conditions by unscrupulous employers.

Naaman Zhou reports for The Guardian. Published 22 April 2017.

The Australian government could significantly reduce migrant worker exploitation by being more lenient to students who are coerced by employers into breaching their visas, according to immigration and employment lawyers at community legal centres. 

Solicitors from the Redfern Legal Centre have asked the minister for immigration and border protection, Peter Dutton, to reform the conditions where international student visas can be revoked, providing a second chance for students who have been pressured or misled by exploitative employers, and encouraging them to come forward.

International students are now allowed to work only 40 hours a fortnight. Redfern Legal Centre’s Sean Stimson and Linda Tucker said unscrupulous employers forced students to breach this cap, then used the threat of penalties to prevent them from reporting underpayment and poor treatment.

“We see clients every week who report serious underpayment or non-payment of wages and other entitlements. But a depressingly regular feature is that our clients, fearing repercussions for their visa status, do not press for entitlements claims,” they said.

Stimson said: “We found there was a business model that targets migrant workers and international students. And what is enabling this exploitation always comes back to the visa. There are laws that protect international students but, if you exceed your 40 hours, then the department of immigration under the Migration Act are entitled to cancel your visa. That is a big enough deterrent to not actually proceed.

“As soon as we outline the potential consequences of visa breach to our clients, we are instructed by them to discontinue. They are instructed to step back into the shadows. The situation has happened that people have come forward but they have been deported before their claim finished and the employer got away with it.”

Read the full article on The Guardian website