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No room at the Inn … but maybe a job in the Outback

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By Rebekah Kebede

You wouldn’t think you’d have to make hotel reservations months ahead of time in Karratha, a small, dusty town on the edge of the Outback  a 16-hour drive from  Perth, the nearest city. But with Australia’s commodities boom, Karratha is bursting at the seams and nowhere is it more apparent than when trying to find a place to stay.

(Above photo: A kangaroo stands atop iron ore rocks outside the remote outback town of Karattha in Western Australia. Reuters/Daniel Munoz)

 

About two weeks ahead of my trip up to Karratha, to do a special report on Australia’s hunt for foreign labour, all hotel rooms within a 60-km radius were fully booked and after more than 20 calls, the travel agent was still coming up empty.

A few more desperate calls turned up a couple of rooms in a town called Roebourne, about 30 minutes away from Karratha at the Ieramugadu Inn, an old motel, which like many others in the area, had become worker accommodations as Karratha struggles to house the influx of labour into town. The bill came to over $200 a night—just shy of what it costs to book a room with a view of the Opera House in Sydney.  The amenities at the Ieramugadu were somewhat different: a complimentary can of bug repellent, tin-foil covered windows to keep out the light for those on night shift, and a view of a truck parking lot through a hole in the tin foil.

Coming to America, for a price

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Jim Kelleher and Karin Matz teamed up with Reuters reporters in South Korea and China for a special report on what has become a cottage industry profiting from a program that allows foreigners who invest in certain small U.S. businesses to get on the fast track to U.S. residency and citizenship.

Chinese and South Koreans are the biggest customers. But a Reuters investigation indicates there are widespread problems in the way the program is promoted and the immigrants’ chances of winning permanent U.S. residency are more of a coin toss than a slam dunk