ICYMI: Germany sees rise in anti-Semitic, political crimes

Of note:

Germany saw a rise both far-right and far-left crimes in 2019, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

The country’s police recorded just over 41,000 cases of politically motivated crime last year, representing a rise of 14.2% compared to 2018, when there were just over 36,000.

More than half of all cases could be attributed to the far-right scene, the statistics show, with 22,342 cases, representing a 9.4% increase. The politically motivated crimes recorded ranged from verbal abuse, spreading racist propaganda, hate speech, to assault, arson, and murder. There has also been a 23% rise in far-left crime, focused particularly in the eastern city of Leipzig.

At the press conference, Seehofer was at pains to allay concerns that police or authorities were losing sight of far-right violence.

“The biggest threat comes from the far-right, we have to see that clearly,” Seehofer said,

Authorities also recorded 2,032 crimes motivated by anti-Semitism – a rise of 13% over 2018, and the highest since those statistics were collected. Some 93.4% of those crimes were carried out by far-right perpetrators. Seehofer said there was a similar figure – 90.1% – for Islamophobic crimes, which have also risen by 4% to 950 cases.

More propaganda, more murders

Next week marks the first anniversary of the murder of conservative politician Walter Lübcke, head of government in Kassel, central Germany. Far-right extremist Stephan E. initially confessed to the murder, though he withdrew the confession earlier this year and replaced it with a partial confession implicating an accomplice.

Far-right killings continued in February this year, when nine people of immigrant background were murdered by an extremist in two cafes in the central German city of Hanau.

The figures show that 36.8% of far-right crimes involve “propaganda offenses,” 13.7% involve “racist hate speech,” 4.9% property damage, and 4.4% violence against people.

Georg Maier, interior minister of Thuringia, who joined the press conference as the current chairman of the state interior ministers’ conference, was particularly forthright on the far-right threat.

“What we experienced in 2019 and 2020 represents a new dimension of threat against our democracy,” Maier said. “This danger is coming from the right. Three murders in 2019, and in 2020 already 10 murders with a racist and far-right extremist background. It had been a long time since we had the murder of a political representative in Germany, and that makes very clear how big the challenge for us is.”

Last week, Seehofer attended the first meeting of a newly established Cabinet committee, chaired by Chancellor Angela Merkel, to fight right-wing extremism and racism. “It was a very, very good and deep discussion,” Seehofer said. A cabinet report on new measures is planned for next spring.

The far-right and anti-lockdown protests

Maier, a Social Democrat who said his own campaign posters had been defaced with swastikas, said he had noticed an increase in “far-right structures,” both in the form of concerts, martial arts clubs, and online groups.

He said that organizers were using concerts to raise money for political campaigns and mentioned that far-right had even opened bars to create another revenue stream.

He went on connect such developments to a more polarized political atmosphere, and suggested that recent demonstrations against social distancing measures had been deliberately “undermined” by the far-right scene.

The data was released as police in Germany on Wednesday raided 25 premises linked to 31 suspected members of anti-government Reich Citizens Movement — a movement that overlaps with far-right extremist groups.

The group was suspected of making fake documents, including passports, driver’s licenses and birth certificates. The raids took place in the states of Hesse and Baden-Württemberg.

A faction of the group was officially banned by Seehofer in March for its anti-Semitic and right-wing sympathies.

Source: Germany sees rise in anti-Semitic, political crimes

What Do Coronavirus Racial Disparities Look Like State By State?

More on race-based data:

In April, New Orleans health officials realized their drive-through testing strategy for the coronavirus wasn’t working. The reason? Census tract data revealed hot spots for the virus were located in predominantly low-income African-American neighborhoods where many residents lacked cars.

In response, officials have changed their strategy, sending mobile testing vans to some of those areas, says Thomas LaVeist, dean of Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and co-chair of Louisiana’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force.

“Data is the only way that we can see the virus,” LaVeist says. “We only have indicators. We can’t actually look at a person and tell who’s been infected. So what we have is data right now.”

Until a few weeks ago, racial data for COVID-19 was sparse. It’s still incomplete, but now 48 states plus Washington D.C., report at least some data; in total, race or ethnicity is known for around half of all cases and 90% of deaths. And though gaps remain, the pattern is clear: Communities of color are being hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19.

Public health experts say focusing on these disparities is crucial for helping communities respond to the virus effectively — so everyone is safer.

“I think it’s incumbent on all of us to realize that the health of all of us depends on the health of each of us,” says Dr. Alicia Fernandez, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, whose research focuses on health care disparities.

NPR analyzed COVID-19 demographic data collected by the COVID Racial Tracker, a joint project of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center and the COVID Tracking Project. This analysis compares each racial or ethnic group’s share of infections or deaths — where race and ethnicity is known — with their share of population. Here’s what it shows:

  • Nationally, African-American deaths from COVID-19 are nearly two times greater than would be expected based on their share of the population. In four states, the rate is three or more times greater.
  • In 42 states plus Washington D.C., Hispanics/Latinos make up a greater share of confirmed cases than their share of the population. In eight states, it’s more than four times greater.
  • White deaths from COVID-19 are lower than their share of the population in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

Major holes in the data remain: 48% of cases and 9% of deaths still have no race tied to them. And that can hamper response to the crisis across the U.S., now and in the future, says Dr. Utibe Essien, a health equity researcher at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied COVID-19 racial and ethnic disparities.

“If we don’t know who is sick, we’re not going to know in six months, 12 months, 18, however long it takes, who should be getting the vaccination. We’re not going to know where we should be directing our personal protective equipment to make sure that health care workers are protected,” he says.

A heavy toll of African-American deaths

NPR’s analysis finds that in 32 states plus Washington D.C., blacks are dying at rates higher than their proportion of the population. In 21 states, it’s substantially higher, more than 50% above what would be expected. For example, in Wisconsin, at least 141 African Americans have died, representing 27% of all deaths in a state where just 6% of the state’s population is black.

“I’ve been at health equity research for a couple of decades now. Those of us in the field, sadly, expected this,” says Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, director of the Equity Research and Innovation Center at Yale School of Medicine.

“We know that these racial ethnic disparities in COVID-19 are the result of pre-pandemic realities. It’s a legacy of structural discrimination that has limited access to health and wealth for people of color,” she says.

African-Americans have higher rates of underlying conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease, that are linked to more severe cases of COVID-19, Nunez-Smith notes. They also often have less access to quality health care, and are disproportionately represented in essential frontline jobs that can’t be done from home, increasing their exposure to the virus.

Data from a recently published paper in the Annals of Epidemiology reinforces the finding that African-Americans are harder hit in this pandemic. The study from researchers at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, looks at county-level health outcomes, comparing counties with disproportionately black populations to all other counties.

Their analysis shows that while disproportionately black counties account for only 30% of the U.S. population, they were the location of 56% of COVID-19 deaths. And even disproportionately black counties with above-average wealth and health care coverage bore an unequal share of deaths.

“There’s a structural issue that’s taking place here, it’s not a genetic issue for all non-white individuals in the U.S.,” says Greg Millett, director of public policy at amfAR and lead researcher on the paper.

Hispanics bear a disproportionate share of infections

Latinos and Hispanics test positive for the coronavirus at rates higher than would be expected for their share of the population in all but one of the 44 jurisdictions that report Hispanic ethnicity data (42 states plus Washington D.C.). The rates are two times higher in 30 states, and over four times higher in eight states. For example, in Virginia more than 12,000 cases — 49% of all cases with known ethnicity — come from the Hispanic and Latino community, which makes up only 10% of the population.

Fernandez has seen these disparities first-hand as an internist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. While Latinos made up about 35% of patients there before the pandemic, she says they now make up over 80% of COVID-19 cases at the hospital.

“In the early stages, when we were noticing increased Latino hospitalization at our own hospital and we felt that no one was paying attention and that people were just happy that San Francisco was crushing the curve,” she says. “It felt horrendous. It felt as if people were dismissing those lives. … It took people longer to realize what was going on.”

Like African-Americans, Latinos are over-represented in essential jobs that increase their exposure to the virus, says Fernandez. Regardless of their occupation, high rates of poverty and low wages mean that many Latinos feel compelled to leave home to seek work. Dense, multi-generational housing conditions make it easier for the virus to spread, she says.

The disproportionate share of deaths isn’t as stark for Latinos as it is for African-Americans. Fernandez says that’s likely because the U.S. Latino population overall is younger — nearly three-quarters are millennials or younger, according to data from the Pew Research Center. But in California, “when you look at it by age groups, [older] Latinos are just as likely to die as African-Americans,” she says.

Other racial groups

While data for smaller minority populations is harder to come by, where it exists, it also shows glaring disparities. In New Mexico, Native American communities have accounted for 60% of cases but only 9% of the population. Similarly, in Arizona, at least 136 Native American have died from COVID-19, a striking 21% of deaths in a state where just 4% of the population are Native American.

In several states Asian Americans have seen a disproportionate share of cases. In South Dakota, for example, they account for only 2% of the population but 12% of cases. But beyond these places, data can be spotty. In Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, Asian Americans and Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders are counted together, making comparison to census data difficult.

Fernandez points out that if COVID-19 demographic reporting included language, public health officials might see differences among different Asian groups, such as Vietnamese or Filipino Americans. “That’s what’s going to allow public health officials to really target different communities,” she says. “We need that kind of information.”

Understanding the unknowns

Months into the pandemic, painting a national picture of how minorities are being affected remains a fraught proposition, because in many states, large gaps remain in the data.

For instance, in New York state — until recently the epicenter of the the U.S outbreak — race and ethnicity data are available for deaths but not for cases. In Texas, which has a large minority population and a sizable outbreak, less than 25% of cases and deaths have race or ethnicity data associated with them.

There are also still concerns about how some states are collecting data, says Christopher Petrella, director of engagement for the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. For example, he says West Virginia, which claims to have race data for 100% of positive cases and 82% of deaths only reports three categories: white, black and “other.”

Also some states appear to be listing Hispanics under the white category, says Samantha Artiga, director of the Disparities Policy Project at Kaiser Family Foundation,

“There’s a lot of variation across states in terms of how they report the data that makes comparing the data across states hard, as well as getting a full national picture,” Artiga says.

But experts fear that the available data actually undercounts the disparity observed in communities of color.

“I think we have the undercount anyway, because we know that minority communities are less likely to be tested for COVID-19,” says Millett. NPR’s own analysis found that in four out of six cities in Texas, testing sites were disproportionately located in whiter communities. Millet points to a recent study, released pre-peer review, that found that when testing levels went up in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Chicago and New York City, so too did the evidence of the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on these communities.

Lawmakers have raised concern about the way the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports racial and ethnic data; the agency didn’t report on demographics early on in the crisis, and even now it updates it weekly but with a one- to two-week lag. Democratic senators Patty Murray of Washington and Democratic Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., of New Jersey called a recent report on demographics the CDC submitted to Congress “woefully inadequate.”

“The U.S. response to COVID-19 has been plagued by insufficient data on the impact of the virus, as well as the federal government’s response to it,” Murray and Pallone wrote in a letter sent May 22 to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. They called on the Trump administration to provide more comprehensive demographic data.

A tailored public health response

Essien says he’s heard concerns from colleagues that by focusing on race and ethnicity in the disease, “some of the empathy for managing and treating is going to go away.”

“If people feel like, ‘Well, this is a them problem and not a me problem… then that may potentially affect the way that people think about the opening up of the country,” he says.

But unless testing and other resources are directed now to communities that need them most, the pandemic will go on for everyone, says Nunez-Smith.

“This is important for everyone’s health and safety,” she says.

Nunez-Smith says race and ethnicity data is necessary for officials to craft tailored public health responses.

For many people, physical distancing is a privilege,” she says. “If you live in a crowded neighborhood or you share a household with many other people, we need to give messaging specific to those conditions. If you need to leave work every day or leave home for work every day, if you need to take public transportation to get to an essential front line job, how can you keep safe?”

A tailored public health response is already happening in Louisiana, where LaVeist says his task force has recently recruited celebrities like Big Freedia, a pioneer of the New Orleans hip-hop subgenre called bounce, to counter misinformation and spread public health messages about COVID-19 to the African-American community.

Given the pandemic’s disparate toll on communities of color, in particular low-income ones, Fernandez and Nunez-Smith say the public health response should include helping to meet basic needs like providing food, wage supports and even temporary housing for people who get sick or exposed to the virus.

“We have to guarantee that if we recommend to someone that they should be in quarantine or they should be in isolation, that they can do so safely and effectively,” Nunez-Smith says.

Nunez-Smith says if you don’t direct resources now to minority communities that need them most, there’s a danger they might be less likely to trust and buy into public health messaging needed to stem the pandemic. Already, polls show widespread distrust of President Trump among African-Americans, and that a majority of them believe the Trump administration’s push to reopen states came only after it became clear that people of color were bearing the brunt of the pandemic.

Fernandez notes that among Latinos, distrust could also hamper efforts to conduct effective contact tracing, because people who are undocumented or in mixed-status families may be reluctant to disclose who they’ve been in contact with.

“This is a terrible time for all of us who do health equity work,” says Fernandez, “partly because this is so predictable and partly because we’re standing here waving our arms saying, ‘Wait, wait. We need help.’ “

Source: What Do Coronavirus Racial Disparities Look Like State By State?

Working with China can’t be at the expense of our values or the rule of law

Good opinion piece by former ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques:

“Canada is China’s best friend,” former Chinese premier Zhu Rongji famously said in November, 1998. There was then a heavy flow of visitors in both directions and a genuine desire in China to move forward with the rule of law and gradual democracy. Its impending entry into the World Trade Organization was going to result in more business opportunities and more contacts with the outside world, which would help China move in the right direction. Well, that plan didn’t work.

Instead, China has become more assertive and aggressive – certain that maintaining an authoritarian regime is the best way for the Communist Party of China (CCP) to survive and protect the privileges of its princelings and their families. Technological development has enabled the CCP to better limit freedom of speech and religion, while silencing calls for a more transparent political process.

When Xi Jinping became the paramount leader in November, 2012, he gave a new impetus to this model. He declared that the time had come for China to take its rightful place on the international scene, placing its people in prominent international organizations, creating its own institutions and launching the Belt and Road Initiative to increase its sphere of influence (and the size of its markets). At the 19th CPC Congress in October, 2017, Mr. Xi went further by underlining the economic success China had achieved without adopting Western values.

In terms of its relationship with China, Canada has gradually lost influence. We are now China’s 21st export market, and China has lost hope in concluding a free-trade agreement with us, which would have been its first with a G7 country. This potential agreement was our last bargaining chip. Despite repeated warnings about Mr. Xi’s tightening grip on Chinese society, and events such as the arrests of Kevin and Julia Garratt in August, 2014, some of the political class in Ottawa remained ambivalent about China.

All this changed after the arrests of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in retaliation for the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in December, 2018. The successful campaign to get international support for Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor’s release took Beijing by surprise and tarnished its image of a benevolent superpower that pretends to be the new champion of multilateralism and free trade. Even still, Ottawa decided to adopt an appeasement strategy, hoping that it would lead to the release of our two Canadians.

A year and a half later, what has been achieved? There has been no improvement in the detention conditions of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor, and we lost $4.5-billion in exports in 2019, with a further 16-per-cent drop in the first quarter of this year. We expressed little criticism of what is happening to Uyghurs in Xinjiang and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. We were late to support Australia’s resolution for an independent investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic. And we tolerate Chinese interference on Canadian campuses, not to mention continuing industrial espionage. China has succeeded in getting us to exercise self-censorship without ever giving us anything in return. The way China handled the new coronavirus pandemic confirmed how the CCP functions. Simply put, China has lost the trust of the international community.

After the decision by Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes in the case of Ms. Meng, we have to brace ourselves for the fact that relations with China won’t improve for a long time. The extradition process may drag on for years unless it is decided after a June hearing that Ms. Meng’s rights were not respected when she was arrested.

It is high time for the Canadian government to adopt a much firmer attitude with China: That is the only language the CCP respects. As Paul Monk put it in the Australian on May 16, “We have nothing to hope for from [Mr. Xi] and must accustom ourselves to playing economic and strategic hardball, because it is the way he is playing the game.”

We should continue to work with like-minded countries to put pressure on China to free the two Michaels and to reinforce a multilateral system. The message should be clear: We want a constructive relationship with a prospering China and constructive change inside China – as long as it respects international laws and treaties and stops acting like a bully when a country does not follow its diktats. We can also take domestic measures to make China realize that while we may be insignificant to them, there is still a price to pay. Finally, we need to build up our China competencies to better inform our dealings with the CCP’s leadership.

Canada immigration intake expected to fall by half due to COVID-19

RBC report is getting some well-deserved attention. Will have better sense of likely numbers once we have a few months data but estimates appear reasonable, as well as regions and programs more affected:

Canada’s annual immigration intake is expected to decline in 2020 by half from last year’s levels as a result of the global pandemic, raising concerns over the impact on the country’s newcomer-fuelled economy.

Canada welcomed 341,000 permanent residents in 2019 and was set to usher in another 370,000 this year, but that number is forecast to be down by as many as 170,000, according to a RBC report released Friday.

First-quarter immigration data on arrivals all indicated drastic decreases in the number of permanent residents, migrant workers and international students.

“The disruption will reverberate across the economy, given our reliance on immigration for labour-force growth and to offset Canada’s aging demographic,” warned the analysis by RBC senior economist Andrew Agopsowicz.

“Among the potential casualties: industries with labour shortages, urban rental and housing markets, and university budgets. Canada will need a younger and growing population to maintain growth and support the unprecedented expansion of the fiscal deficit that came in response to the crisis.”

In March, Ottawa had set a target to bring in 370,000 new permanent residents this year, up from 341,000 in 2019. Just days after the announcement, concerns about the spread of COVID-19 prompted the federal government to impose travel restrictions.

Although these health and safety measures only started in Canada in mid-March, the impacts of the pandemic on immigration had already been felt in other parts of the world, resulting in the disruption of visa services and travels.

These early immigration numbers may be an indication of what is to come as the global pandemic is expected to last through at least this fall, if not longer:

  • Permanent resident entries were down 30 per cent in March versus a year earlier.
  • Temporary foreign worker admission in the agricultural sector fell 45 per cent in March from a year earlier.
  • The number of students entering on study visas fell 45 per cent in March from a year earlier.

“If these restrictions last all summer, we expect to see 170,000 fewer permanent residents entering the country in 2020 than planned — all in a year in which Canada was supposed to welcome a record number of newcomers,” said the report.

“While temporary foreign workers are exempt from entry restrictions, fewer are coming. The overall number of TFWs entering Canada in March was down 35 per cent versus the same month last year. In the agriculture sector — where they represent a key source of labour — the drop was an even sharper 45 per cent.”

Agopsowicz cautioned that Canada’s international education sector is also taking a huge hit, with fall enrolments expected to be down sharply amid travel restrictions and a broad, possibly permanent shift to remote learning.

In 2018 alone, international students pumped $21.6 billion into schools, communities and the broader Canadian economy.

At University of Toronto, for instance, international enrolments has doubled since 2010 to 25 per cent of the student body. If just one-fifth of its foreign students opt not to study in Canada this year, said the report, it could mean a shortfall of around $200 million on a $3 billion budget.

“That reduction could also hurt the small businesses and landlords who depend on these students for revenue,” it said. “A decline in foreign students could also affect what’s been an important source of new permanent residents.”

Canada’s immigration selection system has increasingly favoured international students, with their Canadian academic credentials and work experience. In 2019, some 11,000 new permanent residents had previously studied in Canada.

Last year, Canada’s population grew by 1.6 per cent or 580,000 people, with immigrants accounting for more than 80 per cent of the growth, said the report. While 30 per cent of the overall population is at least 55, only 8 per cent of immigrants are.

“Even before the pandemic, Canada relied on immigration to offset the fiscal challenge posed by an aging population,” the report noted. “With the tab of fighting COVID-19 already nearing $160 billion, Canada needs a growing labour force more than ever.”

Source: Canada immigration intake expected to fall by half due to COVID-19

Korea: race, racism, and the ‘other’

Interesting take and important reminder of the historical and political background that underlies approaches to identity and civic integration. Readers more familiar with Korea may wish to comment:

Korea’s approach to multiculturalism is a paradox. The same multicultural policies and programs that have been enacted and encouraged by various administrations over the years have simultaneously reinforced racial and ethnic views vis-à-vis nationality and citizenship.

Multiculturalism often appears more akin to cultural assimilation. It means foreigners learning to eat kimchi, speaking Korean, wearing a hanbok, and going on television programs and acting surprised at things. Or, if you are like the vast majority of foreign nationals trying to acclimatize, it means learning how to be a good Korean wife and all the underlying Confucian conditions and requisites that come with it.

Despite what any government programs or officials might say, this not a melting pot – it’s a mold. If you fit, you can succeed…to a certain extent.

Here, Korean culture, race, ethnicity, citizenship, and nationality are virtually inseparable.

For example, it’s possible to be a white girl with blue eyes, have a Korean passport, live your life here and speak the language impeccably but never be thought of as “Korean”. Conversely, someone could be born and raised in the States, never visit the peninsula, not speak the language, but still be seen as “Korean”.

To understand how this works, you probably need to understand the concept of “minjok”.

“Min” represents people and “jok” represents family. Despite both these Chinese characters being in recorded use in the classical age, the term “minjok” was a modern construction in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, adopted by thinkers such as Shin Chae-ho in the country’s fight against imperialism.

Western (and later Japanese) imperial powers had begun planting their flags in Asia, seeking trade ports, military posts, and favorable conditions for further expansion, and thus a great competition arose for the most desirable locations. The Korean Peninsula found itself trapped in this game centered on the nation-state despite its pleas for isolation and the continuation of its own autonomous way of life.

For the creation of the nation-state as a political entity in Northeast Asia, as well as the generation of a national consciousness, 19th century political Korean activists sought to foster internal homogeneity and external autonomy. The concept of “minjok” provided such social cohesion: a category inclusive of every Korean without regard to age, gender, or status distinctions.

It was constructed by a collection of public intellectuals such as Shin Chaeho, Ahn Changho, and Park Eunsik. They were associated with the New People’s Association (shin-min-hoe) established in 1906 and focused on the independent strengthening of national power and promoting a more unified nationalist consciousness which did not just focus on a monarch or ruling elite class, such as the yangban.

Historical subjectivity was required. The story of the country could and should no longer be told by simply saying, “This king lived. Then he died. Then this king came along. Then he was murdered. Then there was the next king.”

A country’s history is more than the life, times, inbreeding, and corruption of a series of monarchs. It contains an entire population. Millions of lives, dreams, hopes, fears, stories, tales, music, arts, and more.

The minjok helped provide subjectivity to the people – it took the tale of Korea away from the kings and gave it to the people. A similar thing would happen here in the 1970s with the “minjung” movment.

Thus, the Korean people (all 76-odd million of them) see themselves as a family: Joined together not by law but rather by blood. This idiosyncratic ethno-nationalism means that, for some, the two Koreas can never be truly separated by politics or geography

It’s what still unites the North and South Koreans. Particularly in their disliking of the Japanese. “Minjok” was said to be one of the most frequently used words by President Moon in his meetings with Chairman Kim Jong-un.

Why is this important? Because it seems that it was attitudes of minjok that drove the new visa regulations brought in by the Ministry of Justice. Any non-Korean now has to get a permit to “leave” the country and then also receive a health-check abroad before returning. Failing to do either means you’re not allowed back in the country.

However, if you have a certain visa, which shows your mixed Korean heritage, you are exempt from these. Diplomats and other special cases are also able to avoid the bureaucratic procedures.

It’s interesting because there have long been different classifications of foreigners here. The E-2 native speaking English teachers are very much the minority in terms of numbers but often the loudest and most visible in media. There are other communities who have far more often faced the rough end of the stick in terms of laws and regulations, often silently or without their voice not heard as loudly.

Now, at least, there has been some element of egalitarianism in the treatment of foreigners. The new visa regulations say there are Koreans and there are non-Koreans. There are no distinctions made between those from a “western” country or those from elsewhere in the world.

And it’s worth remembering that the laws have been enacted to help control the spread of Covid-19. Like any bureaucratic government policy, whether they succeed or not is a matter of much debate.

However, many of the Koreans that I have spoken to (from the conservatives to the woke), support these new rules. Unflinchingly. Of course, this virus does not only affect certain races – we’ve seen Coupang incidents, churches, nightclubs, trips to Jeju and more – but the country will do its best to protect the people that live and work here.

For the most part, it’s doing a very good job.

Having been here for 15 years, I remember when we used to have to get re-entry visas before leaving. It’s not a new thing but a return of a previous policy. I’ve also done innumerable health checks, drug checks, AIDS tests, criminal checks, and everything else over the years. I’m far from a saint but I followed the law each time because I was happy living and working in Korea.

After all, if we are going to respect other cultures, a diversity of beliefs and ideologies, and tolerate things beyond our own personal value system, we have to allow sovereign countries to make their own decisions as best they see fit.

Korea has its own ontological and epistemological journey. Its laws and culture have been created according to specific spatial and temporal circumstances.

Yes, there is an element of “minjok” here and that might not sound appropriate to those from different parts of the world. But it’s worth remembering why the concept of minjok arose. As well as understanding why you or I also hold certain values. We are historical and sociological subjects – often speaking and reciting the concepts and words of the societies in which we grew up. The words of our dead ancestors.

This ain’t Rome, perhaps evidenced by the fact that modern South Korea sometimes feels like it actually was built in a day and that the pizza often has corn on, but one is nevertheless expected to do as they do here.

And while America is in flames and British elites seemingly flaunt government rules, I’ll continue to do my best to try and understand and accept the Korean journey – even if it means I don’t always approve of it.

Source: Korea: race, racism, and the ‘other’

UK could offer ‘path to citizenship’ for Hong Kong’s British passport holders

Canada may well have to prepare for a return to Canada of Canadian expatriates, whether of Hong Kong or other ancestry, as well as a likely increase in immigration demand as the situation continues to deteriorate as it appears unlikely China will change course:

The UK could offer British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong a path to UK citizenship if China does not suspend plans for a security law in the territory, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says.

It comes after China’s parliament backed proposal that would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority.

There are fears the legislation could end Hong Kong’s unique status.

China said it reserved the right to take “countermeasures” against the UK.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the UK and China had agreed that holders of British National (Overseas) – or BNO – passport should not enjoy UK residency.

“All such BNO passport holders are Chinese nationals and if the UK insists on changing this practice it will not only violate its own stance but also international law,” he added.

There are 300,000 BNO passport holders in Hong Kong who have the right to visit the UK for up to six months without a visa.

Mr Raab’s statement came after the UK, US, Australia and Canada issued joint condemnation of Beijing’s plan, saying imposing the security law would undermine the “one country, two systems” framework agreed before Hong Kong was handed over from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

The framework guaranteed Hong Kong some autonomy and afforded rights and freedoms that do not exist in mainland China.

China has rejected foreign criticism of the proposed law, which could be in force as early as the end of June.

Li Zhanshu, chairman of the parliamentary committee that will now draft the law, said it was “in line with the fundamental interests of all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots”.

What did Raab say?

British National (Overseas) passports were issued to people in Hong Kong by the UK before the transfer of the territory to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

Announcing the possible change in policy, Mr Raab said the six-month limit on stays in the UK for BNO holders would be scrapped.

“If China continues down this path and implements this national security legislation, we will remove that six month limit and allow those BNO passport holders to come to the UK and to apply to work and study for extendable periods of 12 months and that will itself provide a pathway to future citizenship,” he said.

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent James Landale says that in Beijing might not mind if some pro-democracy campaigners escape to the UK, but the flight of talented wealth creators would be of concern.

Some MPs want the UK to go further and offer automatic citizenship. Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said BNO holders should have an automatic right to live and work in the UK.

The government has in the past rejected calls to give BNO holders in Hong Kong full citizenship.

Last year more than 100,000 people in Hong Kong signed a petition calling for full rights. The government responded by saying that only UK citizens and certain Commonwealth citizens had the right of abode in the UK and cited a 2007 review which said giving BNO holders full citizenship would be a breach of the agreement under which the UK handed Hong Kong back to China.

However in 1972 the UK offered asylum to some 30,000 Ugandan Asians with British Overseas passports after the then-military ruler Idi Amin ordered about 60,000 Asians to leave. At the time some MPs said India should take responsibility for the refugees, but Prime Minister Edward Heath said the UK had a duty to accept them.

What other reaction has there been?

Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy earlier said the UK had to be more robust with Beijing.

Referring to the security law, she told the BBC: “This is the latest in a series of attempts by China to start to erode the joint declaration which Britain co-signed with the Chinese government when we handed over Hong Kong, and protected its special status.”

“We want to see the UK government really step up now,” she said.

Former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the UK should bring together a coalition of countries to avoid a tragedy in the territory.

He told the BBC: “This is definitely the most dangerous period there has ever been in terms of that agreement.

“With our unique legal situation, Britain does have a responsibility now to pull together that international coalition and to do what we can to protect the people of Hong Kong.”

On Thursday Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “We are deeply concerned about China’s legislation related to national security in Hong Kong.

“We have been very clear that the security legislation risks undermining the principle of one country, two systems.

“We are in close contact with our international partners on this and the Foreign Secretary spoke to US Secretary [Mike] Pompeo last night.”

He added: “The steps taken by the Chinese government place the Joint Declaration under direct threat and do undermine Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.”

On Wednesday, Mr Pompeo said developments in Hong Kong meant it could no longer be considered to have “a high degree of autonomy” from mainland China.

This could lead to Hong Kong being treated the same as mainland China under US law, which would have major implications for its trade hub status.

Source: UK could offer ‘path to citizenship’ for Hong Kong’s British passport holders

COVID-19 can’t be used as an excuse to limit skilled immigration

More commentary in the US business press on the risks to the US economy of restrictions on high-skilled immigration (H-1B and OPT:

Memorial Day is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the contributions immigrants have made to America. However, worrying news has emerged that the Trump administration plans to limit highly skilled immigration in an attempt to goose employment.

Such a policy shift would not only be deleterious to our nation, but an ill-founded solution to spiraling unemployment.

From the earliest days of the republic, immigrants have been vital to our national identity. Hot dogs andhamburgers are products of immigrants, and immigrants have played a part in founding iconic American companies like Google, Tesla, and Uber. But now, the administration and some lawmakers are using the coronavirus crisis as an excuse to tear down programs that have helped bring talented workers and students to the U.S., where they are crucial contributors to our economy.

The two most prominent programs being targeted are H-1B visas and Optional Practical Training, or OPT. H-1B visas allow U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in occupations that require specialized knowledge and skills, with stays ranging from three to six years. OPT allows foreigners with student visas to work in the U.S. following graduation for periods between one and three years, depending on their field of study.

Restricting these programs could have an enormous impact on the tech and engineering fields. Many leading U.S. companies were founded by immigrants and depend upon these programs to employ talented international students and workers. About 18% of the entire labor force is foreign-born, with one in four STEM workers being an immigrant, according to an American Immigration Council analysis of American Community Survey data.

Furthermore, more than half of startups with revenues of $1 billion or higher have immigrant founders or cofounders, according to a National Foundation for American Policy study. And immigrants or children of immigrants are responsible for founding or cofounding 45% of 2019’s Fortune 500 companies, per New American Economy.

International students, who make up over 5% of American university students with more than 1 million studying here, contributed about $45 billion to the U.S. economy in 2018, according to the Institute of International Education.

Our health care system will also be at risk from a policy change. The pandemic has highlighted the role of health care workers in our society, so limits on highly skilled immigration could have fatal consequences for Americans.

Colleges are already fearing the impact of COVID-19 on enrollments and endowments; we are simply not in a financial position to reject qualified students who dream of studying and working in our nation.

To be sure, some schools operate as irresponsible “visa mills” that trade a substandard education for work opportunities in the U.S. But that problem can be solved by not extending H-1B and OPT authorization to students from those colleges and universities.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on all of us, but this crisis should not be used as an excuse to allow xenophobia to stifle our future growth. The U.S. has been and always should be a nation of immigrants. Now more than ever, we must remember the importance of immigration, which has fueled technological ingenuity and economic productivity for our entire history, shaping America’s character as a symbol of freedom and innovation.

Welcoming highly skilled and talented foreign students and workers is our best path to promoting employment of native-born Americans. We need great minds from all corners of the world to preserve America’s technological prowess, social diversity, and economic vitality. Preserving the H-1B and OPT programs will benefit us all.

Source: COVID-19 can’t be used as an excuse to limit skilled immigration

University of Queensland student suspended for two years after speaking out on China ties

Outrageous and a reminder of accepting funding from the Chinese government, one that Canadian universities and institutions also face:

A student activist highly critical of the University of Queensland’s ties to Beijing has been handed a two-year suspension from the institution.

Drew Pavlou faced a disciplinary hearing on 20 May at the university over 11 allegations of misconduct, detailed in a confidential 186-page document, reportedly linked to his on-campus activism supporting Hong Kong and criticising the Chinese Communist Party.

The university ordered his suspension on Friday after the 20-year-old philosophy student reportedly left the previous hearing after about one hour, citing procedural unfairness.

UQ chancellor Peter Varghese said on Friday he was concerned with the outcome of the disciplinary action against Pavlou.

“There are aspects of the findings and the severity of the penalty which personally concern me,” Varghese said in a statement.

“In consultation with the vice chancellor, who has played no role in this disciplinary process, I have decided to convene an out-of-session meeting of UQ’s Senate next week to discuss the matter.”

The University of Queensland has faced media scrutiny for its relations with the Chinese government, which has co-funded four courses offered by the university.

The institution is also home to one of Australia’s many Confucius Institutes – Beijing-funded education centres some critics warn promote propaganda.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/may/29/university-of-queensland-student-suspended-for-two-years-after-speaking-out-on-china-ties?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Email

After slashing immigration, Quebec turns to immigrants to fill shortage in long-term care homes

Welcome and needed change:

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette, who cut immigration levels during the CAQ’s first yearin power, has announced a plan to recruit immigrants to work as orderlies in the province’s long-term care homes.

“The needs are immediate,” Jolin-Barrette said at a news conference Thursday.

The pilot project to bring in 550 experienced health-care workers is part of a series of reforms to the Quebec Experience Program, or PEQ, which provides foreign students in the province and temporary workers with a fast track to permanent residency.

Since 2013, Quebec has only recruited 115 orderlies through the PEQ — a program which Jolin-Barrette tried to reduce last year as part of his immigration cuts but was forced to roll back after a flurry of criticism.The province’s long-term care institutions, known by their French initials as CHSLDs, have been short-staffed for years and face the prospect of an even more acute shortage in the fall, when experts believe a second wave of COVID-19 infections is likely to hit.The Canadian military has said it will pull soldiers from the homes before then.

Legault aims to recruit Quebecers, too

On Wednesday, Premier François Legault presented a plan to hire 10,000 more CHSLD employees by the fall.

The government is offering prospective employees $21 per hour to take a three-month training program over the summer.

If they complete the program, the trainees’ starting salary will be $26 per hour — which works out to $49,000 a year. The orderlies, known in French as préposés aux bénéficiaires (PABs), provide much of the daily care in CHSLDs.

“The problem of the préposés aux bénéficiaires is not from yesterday. It exists for years and years and years,” said Marguerite Blais, the minister responsible for seniors,Thursday.This isn’t the first time Blais has promised to address the worker shortage. In 2019, she announced a plan to hire 30,000 orderlies over the next five years.Blais now suggests people in fields like aerospace who find themselves out of work might be tempted to take on a new line of work in long-term care homes.

Blais echoed Legault, who on Wednesday asked “all Quebecers that can to consider it very seriously.”

Facing criticism over the crisis in long-term care homes, Seniors’ and Caregivers’ Minister Marguerite Blais vows to protect vulnerable people 0:43

The vast majority of orderlies in CHSLDs are women — 34,821 of 42,340 in both private and public facilities. Their average salary in 2019 was $40,551.

The Health Ministry did not immediately return a request for a breakdown of how many of those employees are recent immigrants.

Plan for asylum seekers in the works

Hundreds of orderlies are asylum seekers working on temporary visas while they await a final ruling on their refugee applications.

While the province says it has no record of the total number of asylum seekers working in CHSLDs, the Maison d’Haiti in Montreal’s Saint-Michel district estimates that about 1,200 of the 5,000 Haitian asylum seekers the organization has helped since 2017 have become orderlies.

Legault had previously rejected the idea of giving any kind of preference to asylum seekers and others without status working in essential jobs during the pandemic. But there have been growing calls for him to recognize their contribution, including a rally last weekend and a petition backed by the NDP.

Earlier this week, the premier said he will now consider giving asylum seekers who work in CHSLDs a chance to stay in the province by applying as economic immigrants — the class of immigration that Quebec controls.

Legault said he asked his immigration minister to look at the situation of those workers, on a case-by-case basis, as a way of saying “thank you.”

Jolin-Barrette said he is looking into the matter and is in discussions with the federal government, which oversees refugee applications.

As for the program to attract new immigrants to Quebec to work as orderlies, full details will be announced later, along with plans to advertise in foreign countries.

Source: After slashing immigration, Quebec turns to immigrants to fill shortage in long-term care homes

For a sobering account of just how bad the situation is, see this account:

Dear Premier François Legault,

I am inviting you to leave the safe confines of your office and join me on the front lines of what even you have described as a “national emergency.” Come spend a day with me inside a long-term care home, known in French as a CHSLD.

As a journalist who covered Quebec politics before heading to law school, I learned about the challenges facing this province’s elder care system long before the pandemic. And I know you, like all politicians, were aware, too.

I volunteered to work because you asked people to step up. For the past five weeks, myself and many others who answered your call have been working as assistant patient attendants, a paid position, at one of the Montreal CHLSDs hit hard by COVID-19.

I have been stunned, shocked and moved. I am asking you to come see first-hand what is happening. It will change the way you view this crisis and elder care forever. I know, because that is what happened to me.

You would, of course, wear the full ensemble of personal protective equipment: medical mask, plastic visor, gloves and gown, as we do every day to protect ourselves and our residents. On a regular day, these layers can suffocate. Imagine how we have felt during this week’s heat wave, without air conditioning. Yes, there may be air conditioners in common areas, but on the floor where I worked earlier this week, it wasn’t on.

If you joined us, you would see that our seniors are currently receiving the bare minimum level of care. Where I work, assistant patient attendants, like me, patient attendants, and soldiers are constantly feeding, changing diapers and washing. Nurses provide medication. Doctors are on hand during the day, often moving between floors.

But nothing else is happening beyond moving residents from their bed to their wheelchair — and sometimes, even that does not happen.

You could watch how a Canadian Forces soldier, who has traded in a uniform for scrubs, gently feeds a elderly woman who needs total help, carefully and patiently placing each spoonful of food in her mouth.

You could help wash a resident’s hair — hair that has not been washed in weeks.

You would hear how we try to console and reassure a distraught resident who has just received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. You would see the thick, bright red tape I have to unroll to mark a huge X beside her door to indicate that her room is now a hot zone, while the resident sobs in the background.

You would learn how to prepare the body of a deceased resident with a sheet of white plastic for travel to the morgue. And then you would pack that resident’s personal belongings into garbage bags, label them with a Post-It note and pile them in a maintenance closet.

You would try to explain to residents with varying degrees of dementia when this will all be over, and why their loved ones can’t visit them. After 11 weeks of this crisis, repeating “it’s going to be all right” (ça va bien aller in French) starts to lose its punch.

You would see how a team of people tries to figure out where to place red, yellow and green tape on the floor of a hallway to indicate hot, caution and safe zones to prevent further infection.

We called that floor “the jungle,” a reference to the steps and care we have to take when travelling between positive and negative areas so as to not contaminate residents who are negative. Despite our best efforts, every resident on that floor was infected by the end of the week.

You would see how some of the problems that started this crisis are creeping back. For example, last week on one of my floors, there was only one patient attendant available for 33 residents. Luckily, four of assistant patient attendants were on hand to help.

Above all, you would see people from all walks of life, soldiers, and staff giving their all to make a difference in this humanitarian crisis.

I never thought I would see, in Canada, the kind of desperation, fear and anxiety that I have seen in the eyes of our elders. And it is only by spending time on the front lines that you will be able to feel the true weight of this ongoing tragedy.

Sincerely,
Ryan Hicks

Douglas Todd: Canada, Australia take different tacks on immigration amid COVID crisis

We have an understandable tendency to compare Canada with Australia.

Yet the Australian political culture is different in terms of language and tone, with its conservatives being more to the right in general than Canadian conservatives.

Moreover, Australia, unlike Canada, was forced to develop an (imperfect) culture of accommodation, given the large French speaking minority. Both countries, of course, share a common and difficult history with their Indigenous populations.

But under both Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada has generally favoured higher levels of immigration and greater openness to minority accommodation.

So while I expect the economic fallout will force the Liberal government to reduce immigration levels somewhat, I would expect this to be more modest than in Australia. And it is noteworthy that the Conservatives are not (yet) calling for any major pause or reduction. But we shall see how this plays out::

I’m not alone in attending social events in this country where the conversation turns much more easily to American politics than Canadian.

Donald Trump. Nancy Pelosi. Mike Pompeo. Joe Biden. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Anne Coulter. Bernie Sanders. The list of strong personalities goes on. It’s not surprising subdued Canadians become fixated on the take-no-prisoners politics of the U.S.

But it could be more relevant for Canadians to compare and contrast how leaders are responding to COVID-19 and its implications in a more similar English-language country, despite it being geographically farther away than the world’s largest economic power.

Like Canada, Australia is a middle power with a reasonably healthy parliamentary democracy, as well as shared British roots (French in Canada as well) and a significant Indigenous presence. Multiculturalism flourishes in both countries, where more than one in five residents are foreign-born. We have similar populations: Australia contains 25 million people, Canada 35 million.

Canada and Australia — more than the U.S., which takes in one-third the number of immigrants per capita — have relied on large numbers of immigrants as well as foreign students and workers on visas to expand their economies, educational systems and housing markets.

Like Canada, however, Australia’s economy has been severely battered by the lockdown .

Australia lost 594,300 jobs in April, its largest fall on record, and now has an unemployment rate of seven per cent. Canada lost almost two million jobs and has seen unemployment balloon to 13 per cent. The economies and housing markets of both countries are shaking.

Yet Australia’s elected leaders are sharply diverging from those in Canada in how they’re responding to the pandemic at a policy level, especially regarding migration.

With a degree of frankness rarely heard from Ottawa, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expects immigration to fall by 30 per cent by the end of the summer.

The Australian PM went on to forecast immigration levels would plunge by a breath-taking 85 per cent in the fiscal year ending in the summer of 2021.

Morrison acknowledged the decline will be a shock to his traditionally immigration-friendly country. But he suggested Australians ought to get used to lower levels.

In the last two years Australia accepted 470,000 new immigrants, while Canada welcomed 616,000. The two countries’ multi-ethnic populations have in the past roughly agreed on immigration policy.

A YouGov poll found Canadians and Australians have been more open to high in-migration rates than citizens of most nations. Even though 38 per cent of Canadians and 46 per cent of Australians said last year they want to reduce the number of incoming migrants, roughly a quarter wanted the rate to stay the same and another quarter hoped levels would be hiked.

Yet the two countries are now talking and acting much differently in regards to the future of migration. Unlike Australia’s prime minister, Canada’s Justin Trudeau has not speculated about possible intake levels. His immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, simply said this month that robust in-migration must continue in the aftermath of COVID-19 travel bans.

But questions are arising about whether the higher immigration targets the Liberals released in early March — of 341,000 new permanent residents in 2020, 351,000 in 2021 and 361,000 in 2022 — are sustainable, taking into account sweeping unemployment.

“Given that the economic crisis will linger long after the health crisis has passed, can Canada accommodate an additional one per cent of immigrants and refugees added to our population in the foreseeable future,” asked Conservative immigration critic Peter Kent. Mendicino promised only that he would provide an update on migration targets in the fall.

The two countries are also diverging on non-permanent residents. Australia’s acting immigration minister said 300,000 people on study visas and work visas have already departed the country and another one-quarter are expected to go. They are leaving in part because Morrison, who leads the centre-right Liberal-National Coalition government, told non-Australians, including a record 720,000 international students, to return to their home countries if they could not financially support themselves during the coronavirus crisis.

Across party lines Australian politicians are expressing worries about how future immigrants, foreign students and guest workers will compete for jobs with the upwards of a million Australians who have been frozen out of work, at least temporarily, due to COVID-19.

Senator Kristina Keneally, a spokeswoman for the opposition Labor party, recently called for a reduction in migrant numbers after the pandemic, saying the country’s historic reliance on immigration to boost growth has hurt some workers and inflated housing prices.

“When we restart our migration program, do we want migrants to return to Australia in the same numbers and in the same composition as before the crisis? Our answer should be no,” Keneally wrote in a much-discussed May 3 opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald .

“Our economic recovery must help all Australians get back on their feet, and to do that we need a migration program that puts Australian workers first,” said Keneally, adding that Morrison’s government had “cynically” created one of the largest migrant labour forces in the world, of 2.1 million temporary workers.

In contrast to Australia’s politicians, Ottawa is hoping to keep immigration levels high and retain as many international students and guest workers as possible.

To convince tens of thousands of temporary foreign workers to continue assisting Canadian farms and long-term care facilities, the Liberal government recently began making it easier for them to get permanent resident status.

Worried about a drastic drop in the country’s record 645,000 fee-paying international students, Ottawa removed the cap on how many hours most can work each month. It also made it possible for foreign students to keep their study visas even if they are not in the country.

Last week, in addition, the Liberals changed policy so that up to a million foreign students, refugees and guest workers could apply for the government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) of $2,000 a month without providing proof of a work permit .

Despite so many longstanding similarities between the two countries in regards to the complexities of migration policy, the leaders of Australia and Canada are now taking opposite approaches in the devastating wake of COVID-19.

In effect, Canada and Australia have turned themselves into living laboratories, engaging in different social experiments. We will be better able to evaluate their theories once the test results come in.

Source: Douglas Todd: Canada, Australia take different tacks on immigration amid COVID crisis