Far Right Wants International Students Out

The Eureka Youth League, a controversial white-separatist offshoot from the far-right Australia First Party, has recently received media attention surrounding its controversial policies that include putting an end to international students in Australia.

Placing emphasis on universities as a vital area for political influence to be exerted, the party credits this as the reason for “nationalist students to acquire direction and begin to plan for the campus fight-soon to begin”.

What exactly these plans entail remains to be seen, but there has been speculation that this could include placing posters around campus, distributing flyers, intimidation and creating general feelings of being unwelcome on campuses.

Some have accused the party of behaving irresponsibly and making inflammatory remarks. The Party’s blog, White Law Towers slogan reads “anti-racism is a code word for anti white!”, and features comments such as “(the) Eureka Youth League are the walking dead along with Australia first. We will fight dem back, drive them out, bash their brains in because they aint [sic] got nothing in them”.

The party has also divulged that there has been plans to recruit members, with a Victorian publication reporting the EYL have planned on focusing their attention on creating a following at the University of Melbourne, RMIT, La Trobe and Monash.

Claiming that “overseas student programs at every level should be substantively phased out”, the organisation has distributed flyers stating, “how do we take Australia back? How about we make Australia- Australian? We want places at Australian universities for Aussies, not for aliens with dollars!”.

Perth Now, a Western Australian publication, has claimed to have uncovered material that warns that “multiculturalist propaganda” will be subjected to “counter attack” by bringing to light the truth and through counter education efforts. Founded in 2010, the party surprisingly adopted its name from the opposite side of the political spectrum, the Australian Communist Party that was disbanded in 1991 due to unpopularity.

Towards the end of a drive conducted throughout several states on Australia Day, the NSW leader of the EYL, far-right activist Dr. James Saleam, said that the party is also seeking to elevate their profile within the Australian mainstream.

Dr Saleam, who despite claiming to be Greek is himself of Lebanese/Syrian ancestry, staunchly supports the re-introduction of the disbanded White Australia Policy. Convicted of fraud and for organising a shotgun attack on African National Congress member Eddie Funde, which he claims was set-up by the police, Saleam has also been quoted saying he still believes in extra-parliamentary politics.

One Singaporean engineering student interviewed said that whilst he found it disappointing that such a party could exist within Australia, he was unconcerned about the EYL. “Everywhere in the world you will find extremist minority groups, as long as I make a bit of an effort you’re made to feel really welcome (at UNSW)” he said. “All of my friends, Australian and international alike, think that the views expressed by the EYL are absolute rubbish and bordering on xenophobia” he added.

Fine Arts/Arts student Mary Egan, upon learning of the EYL’s plans told Tharunka she felt completely disgusted and incensed at the concept of such a party being permitted on campus. “University life is meant to be about discovering the world and opening yourself up to new experiences” she said.

Despite the EYL denying all allegations of racism, there have been accusations by anti-racism groups such as Fight Dem Back and B’nai B’rith that the party incites hatred, fear and separatism, as well as the glorification of violence. According to The Age, the Australia First party were also present during the infamous 2005 Cronulla riots, distributing leaflets and handing out alcohol.

According to the Council of Australian Governments International Students Strategy for Australia, International students are now Australia’s third biggest industry behind Coal and Iron ore, bringing $18.6 billion to Australia and supporting 125, 000 jobs in 2009.

While the Australian government has been periodically reducing core-funding to universities, it has also increased allocations for full-fee paying students and allows international students studying in Australia to apply for permanent residency, the minimum requirements being the completion of a two year degree program. The result has worked to set Australia up as an attractive option for international students.

At UNSW, 14% of all revenue generated stemmed from tuition fees of international students. President of the Student Representative Council, Tim Kaliyanda told Tharunka that a decrease of international students could cause a rise in the tuition fees for local students and permanent residents. “In fact, universities across Australia have been scrambling to figure out how to account for revenue shortfalls as a result of massive reductions in international student applications over the past year. Top of the list of possible responses is higher student fees for domestic students” he said.

On 31 December 2011 there were 254 686 international student visa holders in Australia, while the USA, in comparison, had approximately 600,000. According to The Department of Immigration and Citizenship, currently there’s no limit on the number of student visas issued each year. If applicants meet requirements, they will be granted a student visa. However, given the multicultural climate of UNSW, with over a quarter of the cohort hailing from over 120 countries, the possibility of the presence of the Eureka Youth League on its campuses would seem low.

Kaliyanda also said that “UNSW’s reputation of educating the best and brightest students Australia has to offer is completely out of step with the values of Eureka Youth League. Higher education is about having a merit-based approach to people and ideas, not reinforcing pre-conceived prejudicial stereotypes” he said.

Such sentiments appear to be echoed in the Australian public, with The Department of Immigration and Citizenship reporting that 93% of Australians “now accept that in a descriptive sense, Australia has become a multicultural society” whilst Australia remains the third most multicultural nation in the world after Hong Kong and Singapore.

Numerous domestic students reported to Tharunka that they would like to see some international students take fuller advantage of what university life has to offer and encourage them to venture out of their comfort zones by socialising with a diverse range of people from different ethnicities. This being said, no students interviewed supported the idea of eradicating the presence of international students, and as one student summed up, “we all still seem to get along”.

Renee Griffin