Wednesday 19 April
Following global trends, Australia and New Zealand have decided to restrict their respective migration polices. For Australia, the restrictions are the latest in a series of changes to tighten the country's stance on immigration, and the new changes explicitly target skilled workers. The recent changes to New Zealand's migration policy are, according to the Guardian, intended to 'control the flows and get the mix right'.
Australia's prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that the 457 visa programme will be abolished and replaced by a temporary work visa. No one explains this as bluntly as Mr Turnbull himself: 'Australians must have priority for Australian jobs – so we're abolishing the [class] 457 visas, the visas that bring temporary foreign workers into our country.'
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand is also preparing to restrict the number of skilled migrants allowed into the country. The approach is called 'Kiwis-first'.
In New Zealand, there is a very real concern about housing shortages, and the high level of immigration (with much less emigration) is exacerbating the issue. What's more, immigrants are apparently contributing to road congestion. I cannot help but be reminded of Fiona Scott, the Australian Liberal party candidate in 2013, who insisted that asylum seekers were causing traffic jams.
It almost seems as if Australia and New Zealand (and let's not forget the UK) are paying homage to America First.
Friday 21 April
It is the fourth day of my new job and most of my new friends are under the age of 10. I work at an after-school care service and, although I wake up at an unreasonable hour and have an almost six-hour break when most regular people are at work, I like it. It is not in my interest to downplay the responsibilities the role demands, but I also get paid for playing piggy in the middle.
Some of the children think I am a bit peculiar because I don't know any of the 'normal' games. It seems ridiculous now, but a few days ago I had never heard of the game 'fish, chips and mushy peas'. I assume that the reader is more enlightened than I was.
Today we spent the final hours of the afternoon making banners from cut-out cardboard letters and colourful tape with patterns. Most children wrote their names. One girl wrote, 'I [heart] CORN SNAKES'. The day before she had been to a park and held one. She informed us that corn snakes aren't dangerous. Some of us are still sceptical.
Another girl made a banner saying 'MUM' in purple tape with different patterns. The last 'M' was covered in tape with tiny doughnuts in different colours. As I was helping the young girl cut tape, she told me that her mum loves doughnuts. She has them every day after dinner. The young girl often makes her mum things with pictures of doughnuts on them, because she knows how much her mum likes them. Suddenly, the girl remembered that the doughnuts at home had run out. The girl looked up at me and said that if she were to give it to her mum now, she would just get really hungry. We decided she should keep the banner in her backpack until her family has restocked.
Saturday 22 April
Back to Australia and absurd migration policies. The news broke today that the United States and Australia have agreed to, essentially, swap refugees.
The deal was first made under the Obama administration, then accepted by Trump, then rejected by Trump and referred to as 'dumb', then accepted by Trump again, though Vice President Mike Pence stresses that this 'doesn't mean we admire the agreement'.
Australia has for some time been outsourcing its responsibility for refugees and asylum seekers who travel to the country by boat, and the new migrant deal with the US follows this pattern. So-called offshore asylum seekers are prohibited from entering the Australian mainland and are instead held in detention centres on islands such as Nauru and Manus Island. Upon being granted asylum, refugees can either stay on the islands or be resettled in Papua New Guinea or Cambodia (another dodgy deal, costing the Australian government $55 million and so far having resettled three people).
On the other side of the deal, migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, who are currently in a refugee camp in Costa Rica, but are having their claims for asylum processed by the US, will be resettled in Australia.
It sounds like fiction. Yet, despite its absurdity, the deal provides hope to individuals and families who may otherwise have had little chance of pursuing their lives in a safe country. For the people who will be resettled, this deal changes everything. It is worth noting, however, that the Trump administration has accepted the deal without committing to the number of people who are to be resettled.
Tuesday 25 April
It is 9am and I am on the phone with a friend who has his asylum appeal today. I ask him how he is feeling, and he says that he is nervous but fine. He asks me what I am doing, and I tell him that I am heading home from work. It's all a bit surreal.