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A SPECIALIST integrity unit has been formed inside the Department of Immigration to deal with widespread fraud in the working holiday visa program, on which industries such as fruit growing depend.

More than 200 internet advertisements have been found offering to buy or sell documents allowing backpackers to claim they had worked in rural jobs without them leaving Sydney, and thus extend their working holiday visas. The standard fee is $400. So far, 64 visas have been cancelled over the fraud and at least 19 more are being reviewed.

One man, an Irish national, has been convicted of fraud. ”There’s been more than 100 fraudulent claims identified this financial year,” a spokeswoman for the department said. ”The answer is we don’t know [the full extent of the fraud]. At this stage it’s too early to determine and we will be looking at it over the next six months.”

The working holiday visa (subclass 417) allows people to extend their stay in Australia by a year if they can prove they have worked in a rural area for three months. Applications are lodged online but have been abused by people selling Australian business numbers linked to farms so backpackers can falsely claim they worked on farms.

”Second year visas for sale,” one ad read. ”Will email completed 1263 form and add your details to my books so you can gain second year visa with ease.”

Another ad offering similar services, posted on the Gumtree website on Saturday, had received more than 2000 hits by last night. Unlike visa scams targeting international students, mainly Indians, this fraud is used mainly by European visitors.

One backpacker told the Herald he had been offered the false documentation as soon as be arrived in Australia, by people staying at the same hostel.

”People told me about buying the documents – getting the numbers to put in,” he said. ”When I arrived here people said you can go there [to a farm] or you can buy. Everyone knows about it. It’s easy. All the people who are here know about that.”

The federal Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Sharman Stone, said the widespread fraud reflected under-resourcing of the department.

Source  :  www.smh.com.au
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Industry leaders in Australia are urging the Australian federal government to overhaul its skilled immigration program to address a looming shortage of workers.

Recent changes by DIAC to the skilled migration visa processing times have meant that many hundreds of applicants for visas have been told that they may have to wait up to 3 years and this is slated to impact on several massive projects announced for Western Australia, including the Gorgon gas development, expansion of the Pluto LNG plant and the development of the Mid-West iron ore region including the massive Gindalbie iron ore mine which will need upwards of 1500 workers during the construction stage.

 The recent Australian Financial Review (afr.com.au) has stated that skills shortages are set to intensify in coming years.

The article calls for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to urgently look at reviewing Australian visa policies to ensure that these shortages can be filled. More immigrants will be needed to work in Australia in industries such as energy, mining  and IT which, according to the review, face a major skills shortage unless something drastic is done to alleviate it.

Major Australian firms such as infrastructure giant United Group have also released warnings to the government that they will be facing skills shortages within 12 to 18 months.

The firm’s CEO Richard Leupen declared that the shortage has been brought about as a result of the tightening of the business visa rules. He says this has coincided with the company’s reduction in training programmes for staff in response to the recession.

In the IT industry, the need is even more acute. A study, commissioned by Microsoft Australia, has found the IT industry will generate $21 billion for GDP by the end of 2013 but any potential growth could be stifled by the shortage of skilled labour.

Bruce Mills, chief executive of IT consultancy firm 3W, says as more IT work becomes available, such as the National Broadband Network, companies will struggle to grow and obtain new projects if the number of skilled workers remains flat.

“What has occurred is that everything that was done to avoid the global financial crisis has sort of spilled over, and so by the time any of the results were felt any issue that caused the crisis is over, and that is what has happened with the tightening of 457 visas.”

Source  :  www.australiamagazine.co.uk

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The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, today announced the establishment of the Council for Immigration Services and Status Resolution.

The council will provide independent advice on the implementation of measures associated with the government’s immigration policy initiatives including New Directions in Detention and the national rollout of the Community Status Resolution Service.

‘The Government’s focus is on resolving the immigration status of people quickly and fairly while ensuring they are treated humanely and with dignity and respect,’ Senator Evans said.

‘The council will provide independent advice on policies, services and programs to achieve timely, fair and effective resolution of immigration status for people seeking asylum or other migration outcomes in Australia.

‘The terms of reference and membership of the council reflects the range of expertise required to implement the Government’s New Directions in Detention policy.’

The council, which succeeds the Immigration Detention Advisory Group, will meet for the first time on October 21 to identify priority issues to be addressed over the next two years. The IDAG provided valuable advice on the adequacy of detention services, accommodation and facilities at immigration detention centres around Australia.

The new council will also advise on the suitability of facilities and service delivery arrangements but its major focus will be on assisting the department with strategies to resolve a person’s immigration status in a community setting rather than in a detention centre provided they pose no risk to the community.

The council will be chaired by Paris Aristotle AM, director of the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture and a former member of Immigration Detention Advisory Group with more than 25 years’ experience in the field.

Other members will include:

  • Air Marshal Ray Funnell AC (Retd) – former Chief of Air Force and a former member of IDAG, Air Marshal Funnell will serve as the deputy chair for the group
  • Ms Kerrin Benson – chief executive officer of the Multicultural Development Association
  • Mr Noel Clement – general manager of domestic operations for the Australian Red Cross
  • Ms Caz Coleman – project director of the Hotham Mission asylum seeker project
  • Ms Libby Lloyd AM – chair of the former National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and was recently appointed to chair the Violence Against Women Advisory Group
  • Dr Maryanne Loughry – associate director of Jesuit Refugee Service–Australia. Dr Loughry is a psychologist, a research scholar at Boston College and the University of Oxford and a member of the Governing Council of the International Catholic Migration Commission
  • Associate Professor Harry Minas – director of the Centre for International Mental Health, University of Melbourne and the Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit, he is a former member of IDAG and chair of the Detention Health Advisory Group (DeHAG)
  • Associate Professor Nicholas Procter – Associate Professor, school of nursing and midwifery, University of South Australia
  • Dr Jamal Rifi – Dr Rifi is the 2009 NSW Local Hero of the Year and Recipient of 2007 Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission Award. He is a former Commissioner for the Community Relations Commission for a Multicultural NSW, a general practitioner and an active community volunteer
  • Professor Samina Yasmeen – director of the Centre for Muslim States and Societies at the University of Western Australia and a current member of the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council (AMAC).
  • ‘I believe the new group will provide valuable perspectives and their community links will help to strengthen the provision of community services to immigration clients in support of timely case resolution,’ the minister said.

    The minister acknowledged the work of members of the previous Immigration Detention Advisory Group.

    ‘I’d like to acknowledge and thank the valuable and long–standing contribution of members of the Immigration Detention Advisory Group since its establishment in 2001,’ Senator Evans said.

    ‘Their independent expert advice provided to the previous and current government has been greatly appreciated.’

    Information about the Council for Immigration Services and Staus Resolution (CISSR) – Terms of Reference is available on the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s website.
    See: Council for Immigration Services and Staus Resolution (CISSR) – Terms of Reference

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    IMMIGRATION officials are preparing a 50-year migration plan to ensure that intakes consider a range of long-term issues such as climate change, water needs and national security.

    The Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Andrew Metcalfe, said yesterday the department was conducting a review of the nation’s migration needs to ensure a more rounded and visionary approach.

    ”In terms of the future, we are trying to lift ourselves away from year-to-year decisions to a 50-year vision,” he told the Australian and New Zealand School of Government conference in Canberra.

    ”We are trying to move away from an immigration department that is responsive to one that can help the government achieve long-term objectives … A long-term planning framework … is something whose time has come.”

    Mr Metcalfe said a well-planned skilled migration program could contribute to Australia’s long-term economic, demographic and environmental goals.

    ”We want to ensure our skilled migration programs are responding to longer-term skill needs which cannot be addressed through domestic training and skills development,” he said.

    ”The question then is how we can best address shorter-term labour market requirements … It will be important that the skilled migrants we choose are not only young and healthy but also have a high level of education, language proficiency and other skills. This will ensure that skilled migration contributes both to labour force growth and to the productivity of our labour force.”

    Mr Metcalfe said the review will include an examination of the points system used to select skilled migrants, known as the Migration Occupations in Demand List.

    ”The MODL is not as flexible as we would like to address a rapidly changing and uncertain global environment. In my view, one of themes of this century will be the increased mobility of people around the globe, and we need to manage this adroitly.”

    But the Government has denied it has adopted a new policy towards asylum seekers in the wake of a decision this week to process a group of 10 Afghan children on the mainland rather than on Christmas Island.

    ”These are 10 unaccompanied minors and therefore what’s happened is that they’ve been transferred from Christmas Island to the mainland on September 2,” he said

    Asked whether there had been a change of policy, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said: ”Absolutely not.”

    He told 3AW yesterday the group of 10 children had been transferred to the mainland because unaccompanied minors were given priority in processing.

    ”That’s what’s happening in the case of these minors,” he said. ”That’s why they’re treated separately.”

    Source  :  www.smh.com.au

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    A new international agreement will boost Australia’s ability to detect and identify immigration fraud and cast a wider net when checking the backgrounds of unauthorised arrivals and other people held in immigration detention.

    The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said today that an agreement for biometric data-sharing between Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom was signed last night. Under the partnership, Australia will be able to securely and confidentially cross check fingerprints with Canadian and UK databases.

    Currently, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship collects fingerprints from all people in immigration detention, including irregular arrivals and illegal foreign fishers. It is expected fingerprint collection will be progressively rolled out to other people in the immigration caseload in the future.

    ‘The Australian Government’s ability to detect immigration and identity fraud will be greatly improved as a result of new biometric data-sharing arrangements with partner agencies in Canada and the United Kingdom,’ Senator Evans said. ‘This data-sharing will help to establish the true identities of unknown people, and ensure that fraudulent cases are dealt with appropriately through the improved ability to detect inconsistent identity and immigration claims.

    It will also help authorities to increase the chance of detecting people with criminal histories and other people of concern, aid in the timely removal of unlawful non-citizens where their identities and/or nationalities were previously unknown or uncertain, and improve detection of fraudulent immigration practices and trends.

    The new biometric data-sharing plan was developed at the Five Country Conference, which is a forum on immigration and border security between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. The US is expected to join the data-sharing arrangement in due course.

    The benefits of international biometric data sharing were highlighted recently when an individual claiming asylum in the UK was found to have previously been fingerprinted in the USA while travelling on an Australian passport.

    The individual was subsequently confirmed as an Australian citizen wanted for sexual assault. The man was removed to Australia to face court, and is now serving a jail sentence.

    Senator Evans said the new data-sharing arrangements would not affect privacy laws.

    ‘The protection of personal information is important to all the countries involved in these arrangements. All data shared by my department will adhere to the Privacy Act 1988,’ the minister said.

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    Immigration to our shores is running at record levels and so too is the boom in illegal immigrants.

    Some are scamming permanent residency is to catch and marry single Aussies. Immigration officials are cracking down on fake marriages, but  sometimes impossible to know when love is true or false. 

    Over the last ten years spousal visa applications to Australia jumped from 26,000 to 40,000 a year. Many phoney fiancés and spouses were kicked out last year. 

    Less than three per cent of applicants are investigated. 

    The process requires foreign spouses to live with their partner for two years and they may be tested on their truthfulness by the Bona Fide units, set up in states across the country.

    Differentiating between love and fraud is not a given, what we are interested in determining is that the evidence and the paperwork and the documentation put before us is true and accurate that it is not a forged document. 

    They’re even more brazen in India where migration agents and internet surfers state plainly what they want, with posts including: “Paper marriage for Australia” and “Looking for a girl to do a paper marriage just to get residency in Australia.” 

    The Times of India newspaper detailed how brides and grooms are contracted to marry, just so they can move here. 

    If they are operating in India, or in China, or in Canada, or in the UK or anywhere overseas, our laws don’t control their activities

    Act, under visa fraud it can include cancellation of the visa, and ultimately removal from the country. In the least we can refuse and we often do in 3000 instances to grant a visa in the last financial year. 

    Dob-In Line: 1800 009 623

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    Allegations of cheating by students in immigration exams has seen the launch of a corruption investigation.

    Australia’s largest international student service, IDP Australia, is investigating possible corruption among its staff after students in Sydney were caught cheating on exams it conducts for the Department of Immigration, The Sun-Herald newspaper reports.

    Copies of the May International English Language Testings System (IELTS) exam were sold for between $12,000 and $18,000, one source claims.

    “These have been leaking out for months,” the source told newspaper.

    “It’s like a chain of command. It came from the official service who gives it out and takes his cut.

    IDP would not confirm how many people had been caught cheating.

    “Cheating in IELTS tests is not commonplace,” an IDP Australia spokeswoman said.

    “‘However given the high stakes involved, attempts to cheat or engage in other fraudulent activity such as identity fraud do occur.

    “Recently in Australia a number of test takers have been detected in their attempt to cheat in the IELTS test. Whether or not it was an internal problem, we don’t know.”

    IDP is investigating the matter.

    Meanwhile, the Immigration Department has defended its outsourcing of English tests, which have been handled by IDP since 1994.

    Source  :  www.ninemsn.com.au

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