Immigration Policies: Two Countries Address the Global Expat Dilemma

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Vinita Tiwari, Middle East CorrespondentLast Modified: 02:23 a.m. DST, 25 July 2014

Dubai - UAE, Visa, Medical, Registration, Photo by Emon Dinglasan

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists”. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

This phrase by one of the most iconic figures in the history of the American presidency affirms the fact that the process of immigration which has been a part of the human experience since time immemorial, and which continues today, is a crucial part of nation building.

Yet, even with the historical proof that immigration is valuable and necessary, the process of moving to another country to achieve upward mobility is more challenging than it has ever been.  This post does not seek to address the issue of 'legal' versus 'illegal' immigration, but the simple fact that in all of the contention people have forgotten their own origins as they lay claim to lands in which they were once strangers.

Society, economies, and global relations are an integral component of a robust immigrant population, and for the world to continue walking on the right path or precisely on a path of continued success owing in large part to the efforts of immigrants and their descendants; countries need to refocus their immigration policies to streamline and provide greater avenues for legalizing migrants, versus an approach that borders on xenophobia.

Some of the most vociferous complaints lodge against immigrants is that they will become a drain on society because they are poorly educated and lack skills required in this technological era. What has been forgotten is that the lack of education or skill does not constitute a high-probability of failure.  Many titans of industry arrived on foreign shores with little more than the clothes on their backs, and a primary school education to boot.

These migrants who shuffled from place-to-place in the earlier centuries were not afraid to wager on the future with their hard work, dreams, and determination to rise above their humble origins, thus laying a strong foundation for future generations to build upon.  This is not to say that there aren't many people who seek to gain illegal entry to a country for nefarious intent, but the majority of immigrant expats are law abiding citizens.

Immigration: Historical Significance

If one were to turn the pages of history, it can be seen that immigration activity started in the United States during the colonial era, and for the first part of the 19th century the country experienced unprecedented rates of immigration during the period between the 1880s to the 1920s.  According to the History Channel in an article about U.S. Immigration Before 1965, immigrants were divided into two lots on the basis of their motive behind their desire to immigrate; the first group entered America to look for better economic opportunities, while the other group which mainly constituted pilgrims, moved to America in search of religious freedom.

Only in 1965 did America formulate immigration laws which subsequently paved the way for Asia and Latin American laborers to immigrate.  Prior to the codification of immigration legislation a Quota System was used, but it clearly favored laborers of European descent.  This inherent inequity in the system has led to persistent accusations of racism, while the other side claims justification for this imbalance with specious diatribe and fear mongering.

Immigration: Different Nation, Different Facets

Since time immemorial, the activity of moving from one place to another for work, money or religious purposes has been prevalent. These globe trotters have been called many names in different nations; ‘Nomads’, ‘Wetbacks’, ‘Banjaras, Pikey, or Gypsies, but these derogatory labels sought to diminish migrants as human beings and malign their true intent, which has always been to search for better life in a better place. Soon, social concerns, religious constraints, and a clash of cultures served to ignite anti-migration activity.

In response to the demands made by the citizens already inhabiting various countries legally or by birth, their elected representatives institute tougher immigration laws to level the playing field, and reduce the appearance of bias and negativity.  But, how many succeeded and how many failed?  What were the hurdles?

The Current Story of ‘Sweet & Sour’ Experiences

Migration activity has become a trend nowadays as individuals are feeling the need to work and settle down in countries with good economic conditions and standard of living. There are favorable nations for them and then on the other side there are nations that have risen from the ashes and have achieved an enviable stature, yet reject immigrants because they do not want the country to experience a reduction in standards of living because too many migrants "may" require social services support at the tax payers' expense.

The positive gains made in immigration policy by many nations, has suffered blows in recent years.  In 2012, the Global Post published an article that listed the top 5 nations (Latvia, Japan, Thailand, UAE, and Australia) with the world's worst immigration policies.  Additional research and rankings of countries with similar labor abuses was done by the Human Rights Watch and Foreign Policy groups, and these studies confirmed and expounded upon the dangers faced by migrants seeking a better life in other countries.

Several of these countries on the lists are faring well both economically and socially, and their resistance to immigration supports the assertion that they view immigrants as a nuisance and a drain.  The report also revealed that each of these countries had severe shortcomings in their employment laws, practiced unfair and punitive behavior toward immigrants, especially in preventing immigrants from joining or forming labor unions which may have providing them with basic workers' rights and additional protections.

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Published: 25 July 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

‘The Wounds Washed & Bandaged’

The fact cannot be ignored that there are several nations, predominantly Asia and Arab, that are thriving because of the high rate of immigration, lax or none -existent worker's rights, and the subsequent benefit derived from these laborers that encourages foreign investments due to low wages.

Though this is still the prevailing model, many countries with stable economies that are flourishing, have begun to roll-out initiatives that seek to align the disparity between the benefits realized from these migrant workers versus their treatment and status..

Though identified in the Global Post, these 5 countries are definitely guilty of harsh anti-immigration policies, but there are many more socially restrictive nations that refuse to even let expatriates reach their shores, as has been reported these past few weeks in several tragedies where immigrants were wounded, drowned, or killed in open waters.

One incident occurred off of the coast of Italy where 60 people were killed trying to escape suffocation in a poorly ventilated and over crowded below deck area of the ship. Another ongoing concern is how Australia is currently handling immigrants seeking asylum.  Instead of allowing them to plead their case on shore, immigrants are stopped at sea and sent back without any regard to potential persecution they may face as a result.  Amongst the 5 countries listed above, one Asian and one Middle East country have begun to re-addressed their immigration laws to make them more equitable and as a result have begun to frame new laws and regulations.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Recently, UAE has emerged as one of the favorite destinations for immigrants. Expatriates from different nations who are seeking to expand their professional horizons are seeking career opportunities in the UAE.  Job seekers with technical skills can anticipate high per capita income, easy home loans and a vibrant lifestyle.  But, this is a relatively new but positive turn of events, especially since the UAE made the 2012 list of countries with the worst immigration policies.

Now, 2-years later, many Emirate-level governments have taken steps to strengthen the rights and protection of migrant workers.  With new strategic direction the federation has begun to focus on labor issues and legislating governmental bodies to arbitrate between the workers and employers, a mutually beneficial resolution of any immigration issues.  The country has reviewed and revised some laws, as well as its bilateral agreements with the countries from which many of the migrant laborers have originated for the past several years.

One such noteworthy amendment legislating greater protection in the interests of workers who were not covered under Wage Protection System (WPS). For this, the UAE government did following:

  • In 2012, the UAE Federal National Council called for legislation for addressing the protection of domestic workers' rights.
  • Later in 2013, the UAE government revised a federal law to safeguard victims of human trafficking.
  • There were initiatives and training programs developed to help custom and immigration officers to identify and targeted those who may be guilty of tafficking.

This may not seem like much, but these changes are substantial when one considers that the UAE based upon the 2012 report, gave the appearance of such a lack of interests in the rights of migrant workers, that laws and regulations did not even exists.

Japan

It is said that Tokyo’s government intended to pay the immigrants to leave the country as soon as possible. Sounds weird and disheartening, but it’s true.  Similar anti-immigrant action is being taken in both the United States and Australia where  asylum seekers and immigrants are being treated inhumanely and with little compassion or any consideration of extenuating circumstances.

However, as with UAE, Japan has realized some positive reversals in its heretofore inhospitable immigration policies.

  • The Japanese government has introduced a point system that makes migration protocols easier for workers conducting one of three activities: academic research, specialized technical work or business management.
  • New Preferential Treatment System that allows a foreign professional to work in a number of fields as long as they possess the requisite education or business acumen and/or capital.  Similar to the US H1B visa which is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine.
  • Clauses that will allow families of professionals to enjoy many of the same benefits of citizens.

Similar amendments are in progress in the 3 remaining countries on the list, but immigration reform in these countries has not progressed enough to demonstrate outward manifestation, nor is the process transparent enough for us to gain additional insight.

The Final Verdict

The countries that have been facing issues pertaining to harsh anti-immigration laws now recognize that their heinous treatment of foreign workers will no longer go unnoticed and in fact is being classified as a human rights violation.  It is easy to malign countries with record of various human rights abuses; however, it is more reprehensible for countries with robust economies and strong human rights protections to deny the benefits that have been received from immigraant or 'undocumented' laborers. To adopt such a hypocritical and uncompromising stance on immigration will only hurt the economic ecosystem in the long-term.

One could be kind and say that the stance they have adopted is because they haven't realized the true worth of these migrants and the advantages they bring.  But, more likely the exact opposite and that these governments are keenly aware of the benefits derived, but because this population of migrant workers is vulnerable and have the most to lose, many laborers find themselves in the untenable position of being regularly abused and taken advantaged.

This is a highly charged issue clearly demands greater awareness and compassion, as well as a desire to accept people from different backgrounds and religious beliefs into their midst. Once this has been accomplished, immigration laws will hopefully become merely written words on a piece of paper, because policy will then be driven less by the letter of the law, but the fulfillment of the original framework that provided avenues for people to improve their lot in life while bring great benefit to their adopted country.

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Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

Korean 'Comfort Women' Still Protesting Decades Later

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Olivia Elswick, Asia CorrespondentLast Modified: 12:36 p.m. DST, 25 June 2014

Photo by: Melissa Wall "Unveiling of Comfort Women Memorial"SEOUL, South Korea -- Elderly Korean women (euphemistically referred to as “comfort women”) who were forced into prostitution as teenagers during WWII, have gathered every Wednesday since 8 January, 1992, outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul to protest the atrocities they faced. These demonstrations are now lauded by guidebooks and travel websites as a must-see for tourists to Seoul.

Though groups of Japanese tourists come to apologize to these determined women, the Japanese government has refused to apologize. The women are hoping the Japanese government will issue an official apology and provide reparations to those forced into sexual slavery. Japan’s response is that this compensation was settled with the 1994 “Asian Women’s Fund.” South Korea rejected the fund because it is a semi-private organization run by volunteers, and not under the authority of the government.

In 2007 the U.S. House of Representatives, passed a non-binding resolution that called on Japan to apologize for forcing these women into prostitution. In April, President Obama called on Japan to acknowledge their past wrong-doings, saying, "This was a terrible, egregious violation of human rights. Those women were violated in ways that, even in the midst of war, were shocking.” Obama also called on Seoul to look to the future and be more flexible in its relations with Japan to ensure better cooperation between the two countries.

Japan responded that the issue of wartime sex slavery is not a political or diplomatic subject. The issue is a hindrance to Tokyo’s relations with East Asia, and South Korea in particular.

Despite their dwindling numbers, with fewer than 100 Korean comfort women still alive, one survivor, Hwang Geum-joo says, ”Our numbers are dwindling every year, but we are still full of anger and they should apologize for what they did to us!” Around 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, but also from China, Taiwan, and Indonesia, were forced into brothels to serve Japanese imperial troops. Many were abducted from their homes or duped into forced prostitution after responding to calls to work as nurses and factory workers. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and other members of the political right continue to doubt these women, instead, claiming professional prostitutes staffed the brothels.

Monday, June 23, 2014, South Korea protested an appearance by Japan’s ambassador, condemning Tokyo’s review of a noteworthy 1993 apology for the wartime sex slavery. The review made the claim that there was no evidence to confirm the forced sexual misconduct.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying is also urging Japan to address the problematic history of sexual exploitation. Japan invaded China in 1937 and held an authoritarian rule for eight years.

In 2011 on the occasion of the 1,000th demonstration, the organizers erected the Pyeonghwa-bu Peace Monument, a statue of a barefooted-teenage Korean girl, with her hands in her lap, and a small bird on her left shoulder representing peace and freedom. The women offer monthly tours of the 'House of Sharing,' a benefit center for survivors of Japanese sex slavery, where many of the ladies now live.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

The Ice Wall | Cordoning off Nuclear Disaster at Fukushima

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The nuclear meltdown in March 2011 of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, for the company Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), following the devastating earth quakes and tsunamis continues to wreak havoc on the environment and the people living closest to the area.

As of 10 February 2014 30,000 people had evacuated the area and 15, 884 died due to the earthquake and tsunami.

A Japanese newspaper recently reported that about 90% of the plant’s workers fled following the nuclear breakdown, an account that differs from Tepco’s statement that the workers were told to temporarily stay away. A full cleanup of the area is expected to take decades.

In an effort to stem the flow of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean the construction of an ice wall began this week. Although this technology has been used on a smaller scale with the construction of tunnels and near ports, never has it been tried on a project this massive and complex.

Experts are skeptic, such as former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dale Klein, who told Kyodo News “No one has built a freeze wall this long for this period of time. Typically, you build a freeze wall for a few months.”

Klein urges TEPCO to seek the advice of experts in the US and Britain who have managed water and decontamination efforts at former military sites. Former British Atomic Energy Authority Chairwoman Barbara Judge also expressed doubts. Masashi Kamon, a professor emeritus at Kyoto University told Japan News “There is a mountain of challenges, such as possible corrosion of frozen pipes and costs of electricity. They should discuss measures that would combine other methods, such as one using clay.”

The ice wall, which will cost about half a billion dollars, will be created from the moisture in the ground which can be frozen. Holes will be dug every three feet for a mile and then pipes put in. Chilled saltwater will be run through the pipes as it freezes at a lower temperature than freshwater. Because of this the soil is easier to freeze, and thus an impermeable wall can be created. This method is chosen over other materials such as steel, because metal can degrade over time. The wall has an estimated seven-year lifetime, which would give TEPCO time to repair cracks in the turbine and reactor buildings and block the influx of groundwater.

This underground ice wall around the melted-down nuclear reactors is designed to stop hundreds of tons of radioactive groundwater from leaking into the ocean. Though the incident happened in 2011, this project is still necessary because the reactors still have hot nuclear fuel inside of them and workers have to put water into them to keep them cool. The reactors leak and because they are extremely radioactive, they can only be accessed by robots.

TEPCO said a robot sent to Unit 1 of the wrecked plant discovered a source of the water leaks. Until this leak can be plugged, water must be kept pumping out and filtered to remove radioactivity. As much as 1.5 metric tons of water leak from Unit 1 every hour or almost 10,000 gallons a day according to TEPCO estimates. A single exposure to the radioactive material could kill a person within a few weeks, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Besides the ice wall, wells have been dug and groundwater has been pumped out. This method only takes care of ¼ of the 400 tons going through the site. Holding tanks for groundwater from the area between the mountains and ocean are filling up fast.

The expected date of completion for the wall is March 2015, and several months after that the freezing process will be completed. Operating costs and electric power needed to keep the ice wall frozen are expected to be enormous.

Follow Olivia on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Asia Correspondent: @OCELswick

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Ascendancy of the Yuan, Signals Dollars Decline

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:15 PM EDT, 1 June 2012

US Dollar Burning, Photo by Images of MoneyWASHINGTON, DC - For decades the American public was warned of the impending crash of the U.S. dollar. Economist sounded the alarm far in advance of the 2007–2012 global financial crises, which was the result of a confluence of complex financial events. However, to simplify the catastrophic cascade of financial market collapses, the root causes were high-levels of global debt, risky and speculative investment practices, and unchecked avarice.

High-net worth individuals will be able to weather the storm of the impending diminution of the dollar’s value, but people of moderate to impecunious means will suffer levels of hardship not witnessed since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In 2004, then Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan prognosticated, “Foreigners will eventually sour on U.S. bonds and the dollar because of America's bulging trade and budget deficits, posing significant risks to the nation's economy.

Greenspan told a banking conference in Frankfurt, Germany, that international investors were likely to either unload their dollar-denominated investments or demand higher interest rates. Either scenario would present problems for an economy that is heavily dependent on foreign capital to fuel its free-spending ways.” (Source: LA Times)

Eight years later, billionaire market movers such as Warren Buffet are more insistent and vociferous in warning Americans of the real possibility of the removal of the dollar as the global reserve currency. Unfortunately, most Americans have little bandwidth to digest or calculate the exact impact a change of this magnitude will have on their lives. The average American in recent years has been focused on how to pay for gas, put food on their table, and cover the cost of every day needs with less money.

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Published: 1 June 2012 (Page 2 of 3)

During this U.S. election season, politicians bandy about well-worn slogans that make it seem as if the decline of the U.S. dollar is a partisan issue. However, the $15.7 trillion deficit that plagues America is not a partisan issue, though the Republicans, Democrats, and Independent candidates who campaign on this platform would have you believe otherwise. In sonorous speeches to preselected audiences, these politicians deliver performances worthy of the man behind the mirror in the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ but this is no laughing matter.

What is truly behind the curtain is the reality that America’s debt is almost wholly owned by foreign nations with China owning the lion share. How China effectively waged and is winning this quiet war is best described by the Chinese proverb, “When the enemy is too strong to be attacked directly, and then attack something he holds dear. Know that he cannot be superior in all things. Somewhere there is a gap in the armor a weakness that can be attacked instead.”

In 1956, Chairman Mao Zedong stated, “If the U.S. monopoly capitalist groups persist in pushing their policies of aggression and war, the day is bound to come when they will be hanged by the people of the whole world,” a statement that makes the overthrow of the dollar anything but accidental.

In 2005, Herbert Franz Schurmann, noted historian, emeritus professor of history and sociology at U.C. Berkeley, wrote an in-depth, historical article for New America Media in which he outlines the ascendancy of the yuan as the new reserve currency.

"Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a military conflict by borrowing money from somewhere else," Former President Bill Clinton said. He pointed out that the Chinese keep loaning us money "for Iraq, Afghanistan, and Katrina."

As a result, the Chinese yuan is silently beginning to look like a universal currency. It plentifully delivers everyday economic values without devaluation. It has enough money to finance capital anywhere and anytime. And it is a "safest currency" or a "safe haven."

Not so long ago, Hong Kong banks did not handle yuan. Now they handle not only mainland China yuan but most of the Indian Ocean countries' currencies. Even Kuwait, which houses a major American base also deals in yuan. Russia and former Soviet republics have for some time welcomed the yuan.

China and Japan have started direct currency trading as Beijing marked another stage on its journey to foster the Yuan's use internationally. "Yuan-yen direct trading is just a small step toward making the yuan a reserve currency.” (New American Media)

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Published: 1 June 2012 (Page 3 of 3)

The Federal Reserve estimates that the majority of the U.S. cash in circulation today is outside the United States, (Source: New York Fed) and since the 2008 global financial crisis, China, the largest holder of U.S. debt has divested $238bn of those holdings in currency swap agreements with dozens of countries. As of 2010, Japan held $800bn which makes the news of the two countries bilateral agreement to engage in direct yuan yen trading, an ominous portent of further economic upheaval for American citizens.

What does this mean for the average American? Many witnessed the rapid depreciation of their stock market investments during the crash; I personally lost 50% of the value of my modest portfolio. Others lost the total value of their largest asset, their homes, as the housing market sunk into a morass of foreclosures.

Though it seems as if the worst is over, the growing chatter about the replacement of the U.S. dollar by the Chinese yuan as the global reserve currency signals even deeper, more prolonged economic difficulties for Americans and those individuals and countries heavily invested in the dollar.

However, for the Forbes 400 whose portfolios and holding are incredibly diversified, a switch from the dollar to the yuan may be slightly inconvenient, but may have relatively little impact on the total value of their assets.

For average Americans, the choices are more limited but not insurmountable. These include but are not limited to buying precious metal coins which are easily transportable and transferable, and the second is to start a business.

Alan Uke has written a practical guide to help readers bring this seemingly gargantuan problem into perspective and he outlines tangible, actionable steps toward preventing the national tragedy that is looming on the horizon.

Aptly titled, “Buying America Back: A Real-Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity,” it is educational and inspirational, because as Betty Williams said, “There's no use talking about the problem unless you talk about the solution.”

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

Japan still coping with human, economic costs of tsunami one year later

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Japan has also been impacted by the global economic downturn, and the Tohoku quake has further exacerbated its economic recovery efforts.

In addition to the socioeconomic challenges, Japan must now contend with the daunting task of clean-up of the ongoing level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex where the tsunami flood waters are now leaking radioactive waste into the ground water.