More Migrants, Fewer Checks

More migrants, fewer checks
Cath Hart and Annabelle McDonald
The Australian
October 19, 2006

THE Immigration Department is struggling to check whether employers using skilled foreign labour are meeting Australian standards, recording a drop in monitoring rates as the popularity of the visa continues to grow.

Compliance monitoring of 457 visa sponsors dropped this year because of a surge in the number of employers using the visa as part of the guest-worker scheme coupled with an increase in the “complexity of the allegations needing to be investigated”, an department spokeswoman said.

Last year, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs conducted compliance checks on just 62.5 per cent of employers sponsoring workers on 457 visas, down from 96.6 per cent in 2003-04. The number of employers sponsoring workers under the 457 visa program has risen from 8150 to 9928 this year, with 180 of the companies under investigation by DIMA for breaches.

The growth in workers has been even more rapid. In 2005-06, 39,500 workers were granted the work visa, an increase of 42 per cent since last year.

Opposition immigration spokesman Tony Burke yesterday described the drop in monitoring as extraordinary and said the Government was “deliberately turning a blind eye to 457 rorts”.

The revelations – contained in DIMA's annual report – came as John Howard made an extraordinary intervention in a dispute between a Brisbane welding firm and three sacked Filipino workers hired under the 457 scheme. The Prime Minister urged the three, who were brought to Brisbane on the visa before being sacked, to contact DIMA.