Five Chinese nationals have been arrested in New Zealand and charged with Australia visa fraud...read more.
A recent Australian immigration report shows that as many as 60,000 people are in Australia illegally, including over 3,500 British people who remain in the country despite their Australia visa having expired...read more.
The Sri Lankan navy has requested Australian immigration authorities to begin turning back asylum seeking boats in order to deter more asylum seekers from risking the journey...read more.
While the asylum seeking issue in Australia continues to spiral with record numbers of arrivals and Prime Minister Julia Gillard's position seemingly under threat, the Australia visa scheme intended to ease the system's pressure is also beginning to fail with more than half of all applications being rejected...read more.
Five arrested in Christchurch over Australia visa fraud
Australia and New Zealand are
keen to portray a strong front
when it comes to immigration.
Five Chinese nationals have been arrested in New Zealand and charged with Australia visa fraud.
The five, Yu Ren Lin, 37, Jia Ma, 35, Le Tan, 28, Hao Tan, 34, and Lin Sang, 29, allegedly used their own genuine Chinese passports to fly to Australia where they would then report their passports as missing. While they were provided with temporary documentation which would allow them to return to New Zealand, others would use their passports to enter Australia.
Police say the scam, which reportedly took place between 2007 and 2010, involved at least 17 Australia visa applications made two of the five men which have been found to be fraudulent.
"The principals have now been arrested along with associates and other people who were involved in the operation," said Detective Inspector Tom Fitzgerald.
"We believe all have been part of an organised criminal group which has been operating for some time."
The five accused face charges of immigration fraud, dishonestly using applications for Australian transit visas and making a false statement; they could also face charges related to people smuggling.
All but one of the five, Yu Ren Lin, who faces 23 charges, have been granted bail before they are due to appear in court in August.
Both Australia and New Zealand are especially keen to appear to be making a dent in abuse of their respective immigration systems after it was revealed almost 300 Chinese students had received fraudulent visas while Australia has been continuously plagued by asylum seekers.
"People smuggling is an international crime that strikes at the heart of border security," said Immigration New Zealand Intelligence, Risk and Integrity General Manager Peter Elms.
"We will continue to work with the police and our international partners to bring those involved to justice."
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Thousands of Britons overstaying their Australia visa
Over 3,500 Britons in Australia
do not have a valid visa.
A recent Australian immigration report shows that as many as 60,000 people are in Australia illegally, including over 3,500 British people who remain in the country despite their Australia visa having expired.
While national politics continues to rage about the ongoing asylum seeker situation, the 59,430 people in the country who entered legally and failed to leave when their Australia visa expired dwarves the 13,613 asylum seekers who have arrived since Julia Gillard became prime minister.
Chinese nationals accounted for the largest proportion of overstayers with 7,930; 3,650 British people were found to be in the country without a valid visa.
The number of overstayers has increased 6% on last year and by almost 10,000 in just five years, representing a worrying trend for Australian immigration authorities.
The number of visa overstayers is calculated twice a year but do not show how long each overstayer has been in the country illegally and immigration officials have played down the significance of the growing trend.
"Many people who overstay their visas in Australia depart voluntarily without the need for departmental involvement," said an immigration department spokesperson.
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Sri Lankan navy urges for tougher Australian immigration enforcement
The Sri Lankan navy has urged
its Australian counterpart to
begin turning asylum seeking
The Sri Lankan navy has requested Australian immigration authorities to begin turning back asylum seeking boats in order to deter more asylum seekers from risking the journey.
Australia has been plagued by asylum seekers since late last year when the government's deterrent, the Malaysia Solution, was struck down by the High Court. Since then, boat arrivals have rapidly increased, finally reaching record levels earlier this month.
The Australian opposition have touted the policy of turning asylum seeker boats around and escorting them out of Australian waters. The government has ruled the proposal out, calling it cruel and life endangering.
However, the Sri Lankan navy has urged its Australian counterpart to consider the policy as a suitable deterrent.
The vast majority of asylum seekers arriving in Australia leave from Indonesia and attempt to reach Christmas Island, an Australian territory closer to Indonesia than the Australian mainland. However, boats from Sri Lanka have also begun to make the trip in recent weeks, leaving the Indian subcontinent heading for the Cocos Islands, another Australian territory approximately halfway between Sri Lanka and Australia.
The policing of the issue is a controversial topic in Australia, even going so far as to threaten Ms Gillard's position yet few external countries offer their opinion; earlier this month the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, Thisara Samarasinghe, was reported to have recommended the policy of turning back the boats but this was quickly denied by the high commissioner, saying it is not for Sri Lanka to comment on Australian policy.
It would appear as though the Sri Lankan navy does not agree with the high commissioner though as a navy spokesperson, Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya, has said his country's navy has frequently requested Sri Lankan boats headed to Australia should be turned back.
"Whenever the boats get to Australia they are taken ashore and are not sent back. If this keeps happening they will keep encouraging the boat people to try and get to Australia," said the commander.
The Sri Lankan navy has intercepted over 500 people attempting to reach Australia in July alone but Commander Warnakulasuriya said they would be increasing patrols to prevent even more people attempting the journey.
"One of the reasons the number of illegal asylum seekers has increased is the reduction in patrols. We are increasing them to combat this.
"The Sri Lankan navy is responsible for its own waters. We can only hope that the Australian navy will turn them back."
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Australia visa scheme not helping asylum seeker situation
Three times more bridging visas
have been issued than originally
While the asylum seeking issue in Australia continues to spiral with record numbers of arrivals and Prime Minister Julia Gillard's position seemingly under threat, the Australia visa scheme intended to ease the system's pressure is also beginning to fail with more than half of all applications being rejected.
The controversial Australia visa scheme, known as bridging visas, was introduced last October by Immigration Minister Chris Bowen to ease the pressure on the country's detention systems.
A bridging visa provides an alternative to mandatory detention and allows holders to live and work in the community and claim benefits.
However, the latest report from the Immigration Department showed 60% of the 1,988 people who applied for a bridging visa were rejected. Many appealed their decision and were successfully granted refugee status but opposition politicians claim appeals only further clog the legal system and give incentive to asylum seekers to extend their stay in Australia by chasing lengthy appeals.
"There's a great incentive if you're already living in the community and your asylum claim has been rejected to seek to prolong your stay by pursuing further appeals made possible by the government's changes," said opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison.
Mr Bowen said he had anticipated issuing approximately 100 bridging visas a month when the scheme was implemented but with almost 3,200 visas granted in less than 10 months, that target has been easily surpassed.
This record, combined with several Australian detention centres either approaching or surpassing their capacities, presents yet more worrying information for the minister.
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- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the Australian Visa Bureau.
©Visa Bureau 2003-2013