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Migration hardline is selling Australia short

  • 12 November 2019


The Morrison government continues to demonstrate just how tough the Australian Department of Home Affairs can be — toward select groups of people at least. A hard-hitting reminder came when award-winning Berlin-based journalist of Cameroonian descent Mimi Mefo was denied a visa to enter Australia in order to speak at the Integrity 20 conference in Brisbane on 25 October about press freedom.

The basis of the denial was that immigration authorities believed she might try and stay in Australia, despite having a job with German press Deutsche Well. She believes that her African descent played a part. It does indeed seem that the underlying assumption within the immigration system is that anyone who originates from lower- or middle-income countries, who also happen to be mostly people of colour, would want to stay in Australia regardless of their circumstances.

On the skilled migration front, Australia will introduce two new regional skilled visa types offering 25,000 places annually, an increase from the former 23,000 from 19 November. There will be one state-sponsored and one employer-sponsored category, both aimed at people in relevant occupations willing to live and work outside of metropolitan regions Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Perth and Gold Coast have regained their regional status. Visa holders will be able to apply for permanent residency after at least three years of working and staying in a particular area, an increase from two under its visa predecessors.

While this may sound alright in theory, boosting the economy while reinvigorating regional areas, recent research has painted quite a different picture. It focused on the experiences of migrants who came under state sponsorship in South Australia and found that unemployment among this group was double the state average, and 54 per cent of respondents said they were in jobs that they were essentially overqualified for. Forty-three per cent of those interviewed also believed Australian employers discriminated against those who do not have local experience, ten per cent felt there was discrimination coming from employers more broadly, and 7.9 per cent felt that they were discriminated against on the basis of language.

The researchers conclude that: 'For the program to work as intended, federal and state governments need to face up to the disconnect between their identification of skill shortages and employers' unwillingness to employ new migrants.'

With regard to Australia's humanitarian intake, the Department of Home Affairs released that in 2018-19, South and Central America was a priority region and