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Max Maddison, Journalist@maxmaddison 5:32PM February 24, 2022
Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally has condemned the Morrison government for overseeing a “scam” that has seen thousands of undocumented workers granted bridging visas throughout the pandemic.
An investigation by The Australian revealed the Department of Home Affairs has quietly been handing out thousands of visas in a bid to easelabour shortages facing the horticulture sector.
Figures provided by the Australian Border Force show in 2020 and 2021 combined, the Department of Home Affairs granted 97,831 Bridging E visas – although this wasn’t confined to undocumented workers.
Despite multiple requests across two days, the ABF failed to provide further information about the distribution of bridging visas. But Senator Keneally said the latest statistics were simply further evidence of the government’s failure on borders, saying the consequences would be further exploitation of vulnerable people.
“Over the past nine years the Morrison government has overseen an explosion in the number of people arriving by aeroplane and claiming asylum, with a record 140,000 people being smuggled and trafficked into Australia through our airports,” Senator Keneally said.
“Even with the closed border, we have seen almost 1000 people per month claiming asylum onshore and accessing a work scam established by Mr Morrison’s failure to manage our border and immigration system.
“The latest statistics show that legacy of Mr Morrison’s border failures, with dodgy labour hire companies continuing to traffic and exploit vulnerable people.”
Dozens of illegal workers – predominantly of Chinese and Malaysian background – have claimed they received bridging visas in the past year. The sudden lifeline came after many unsuccessful attempts over multiple years to apply for asylum through protection visas.
Data collated by former Department of Immigration deputy secretary Abul Rizvi shows a spike in the number of asylum applications for Chinese and Malaysian citizens in the past decade, peaking at about 18,000 in 2017-18.
With the Nationals’ solution to severe labour shortages in the horticulture sector, the agriculture visa, reliant on ongoing bilateral negotiations with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, producers expect the reopening of Australia’s borders will see undocumented workers return in droves. Nationals MP Anne Webster has called for a pathway for amnesty for undocumented fruit pickers who have remained in Australia.
Source – https://www.theaustralian.com.au