My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Some immigrants are better than others

This year 200 million people in the world crossed borders as immigrants. Despite this, laws and public attitude governing immigration and immigrants are universally common: that not all immigrants/ foreigners are equal and can be discriminated against without questioning.

Many countries have designed their immigration laws to make it easier for skilled workers to come in. In countries like Australia, more than 70% of immigrants are people intended to fill certain skill gaps. This implicitly denies equality of opportunity for non-citizens. Can any country ask its own citizens who don’t meet the skills requirements to leave? Many countries make it mandatory for immigrants earning below a certain salary to go through a much rigorous process for entry including HIV and other medical tests while the well off can enter with limited paper work. Can any country ask its own citizens who earn below a certain amount to go through an HIV test as a precondition to living in that country? Some countries even allow investors with millions of dollars of promised investment a super fast highway to citizenship. While freedom of movement within a country is regarded a fundamental right for citizens, it’s often not so for all foreigners. Pakistanis traveling to India have restrictions on which all cities they may visit, Saudis can. Also immigration laws often favor people from some countries. While people within EU can work freely within EU, others find the process of getting an work permit arduous.

Then there is public attitude towards immigration. The easiest way for any political party to build a critical mass globally is to talk in a few press outings against immigration from certain countries. There are stories a plenty, from ill-treatment to dubious executions of South Asian foreign workers, in the Middle East; Americans and Europeans get a preferred treatment (except from a few extremists). Black students are often given a cold shoulder in places like Pune, India; while colleagues fall over one another to take out Caucasian workers in Indian BPO companies with frequent invitations for dinner at home. East European workers in UK are always much less of a problem than Pakistanis.

There may seem to be some genuine concern regarding immigrants: national security being the most quoted, others are dilution of national values and social harmony. But that does that mean a country and its people can distinguish between immigrants based on skill sets, earning ability or race? If they can’t do it legally for their own citizens, why can they do it to foreigners?

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