Friday, November 12, 2010

Australian asylum policy in disarray

The Federal Government has been urged to review all asylum-seeker claims dealt with under the contentious offshore processing regime after a landmark High Court decision, labelled "diabolical" by the Opposition but hailed by human rights groups.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has called for legal advice on the unanimous court ruling, which could cast a cloud over the Gillard Government's plans to send unauthorised boat arrivals to a detention centre in East Timor.

The ruling means asylum-seekers taken to Christmas Island would have the same right to appeal when their refugee claims were rejected as those processed on the mainland.

Mr Bowen would work through the "significant ramifications" of the decision and take recommendations to cabinet in coming weeks.

"It's a significant judgment. It's an important judgment," Mr Bowen said yesterday. "It's a judgment which has the potential to elongate the amount of time it takes to process refugee claims."

Former immigration minister Philip Ruddock said the ruling was "diabolical" an opinion echoed by Opposition spokesman on immigration Scott Morrison.

"What this outcome will produce is just seeing more people coming on boats with false claims, making those claims, and appealing them endlessly through the courts, costing taxpayers an enormous amount of money and compromising the integrity of our immigration system overall," Mr Morrison said.


Australia's tougher skills test for legal immigrants angers some business groups

Perhaps they can recruit some of the Afghan and Tamil Tiger "refugees" into becoming waiters etc

Business groups have slammed the Government's new skilled migration test, saying it will exacerbate the skills shortage and make it even harder for small businesses to hire new and qualified staff in specialised areas.

The comments come just after new figures from economists suggest immigration will drop over the next few years and the skills shortage will become worse as employers search for qualified staff, especially in the engineering, trades, manufacturing and construction industries.

John Hart, chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia, says the new test will make the skills shortage in the hospitality industry even worse, warning that restaurants and other catering firms may struggle to find qualified chefs who are specialists in overseas cooking methods.

"This is going to make it worse, absolutely. Substantially so, because the harsher English language test requirements have been enhanced. This means that fewer cooks and chefs will be able to get a visa," he warns.

"It's already difficult enough, this is going to make it more difficult. This isn't very good news for us at all."

COSBOA chief executive Peter Strong says the changes will continue to make it difficult for SMEs to get involved with skilled migration.

"We have areas where we know we have skilled shortages, such as the hospitality industry, and it does make it hard. The red tape becomes more difficult, and that's one of the biggest issues here," he says.

"I really would like the Government to stop and think about how this is making it more difficult for businesses. If there are good reasons, there should be some sort of help desk or help services for businesses, especially small businesses."

The Australian Industry Group has slammed the new test, saying it will make it more difficult to attract skilled migrants.

"In particular, the decision to give fewer points to the skilled trades compared with university qualifications does not adequately reflect the critical need for trade skills in our economy," chief executive Heather Ridout said in a statement.

Ridout points out that university graduates receive 15 points while skilled traders receive 10 points, and has also criticised the English test, which she claims will disadvantage migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds.

"We would urge the Government to be open to further changes that would better balance the needs for both tertiary and trades skilled migrants," she said.

Bowen announced the changes yesterday, saying the new points test will assess independent skilled migrants as part of the Government's decision to reform the migration system. The test will, according to the minister, "emphasise the importance of English, work experience and high level qualifications... and is designed to ensure no one factor guarantees migration".

But Hart says this is the most frustrating part of the test, given that so many restaurants rely on authentic cuisine, and in order to provide such services they hire chefs and cooks from their native countries who may not have a firm grasp of English.

"It's nonsense to say that you should have an English language requirement of that level, because the reality is, they don't require that level of English to work in the kitchen. This isn't an academic pursuit."

"In fact, we rely on cultural diversity in this industry, in order to provide those sorts of cuisines. It seems the immigration department is attempting to stamp that out."

The changes come after the Government dramatically changed the skilled migrants list, giving preference to a number of occupations over others. Previously, simply listing an occupation would provide 50% of the test's passing mark, but now, a number of factors will be considered, including qualifications and work experience.

"The existing points test has not always led to outcomes consistent with the objectives of the skilled migration program," Bowen said yesterday.

"For example, the current test puts an overseas student with a short-term vocational qualification and one year's work experience in Australia ahead of a Harvard educated environmental engineer with three years' relevant work experience."
In comparison, Bowen argues the new test will recognise a larger pool of talent, and warns that employer-sponsored visa categories are not affected by the changes.

But Hart says despite the minister's assurances, the hospitality industry will still be affected, and he intends to seek a meeting with the minister as soon as possible.

"We will definitely be speaking with the department. We haven't yet been able to get a meeting with minister Bowen, but I'm sure at some stage he'll get around to talking to us."

The announcement comes just after research from Access Economics and KPMG found the skills shortage will worsen during the next few years. Access predicts net migration will fall to 170,000 over the next few years, and KPMG found 50% of businesses surveyed are complaining of skills shortages.

KPMG migration practices head Karen Waller recently told SmartCompany the Government needs to consider how the skilled migration system will help businesses, rather than keep them from hiring new staff.

"The challenge for government is to ensure there is independent and rigorous discussion about what role skilled migration plays in Australia to help businesses grow," Waller says.


No comments:

Post a Comment