Pact With China Excludes Dubious Visa Middlemen

Pact with China excludes dubious visa middleman

Michael Bachelard
The Age (Melbourne)
September 6, 2007

AN AGREEMENT signed last night between the Chinese and Australian governments aims to marginalise unscrupulous migration agents who charge immigrant workers tens of thousands of dollars to work in Australia.

The Age has highlighted several cases of skilled migrants made extremely vulnerable by fees of up to $23,000 that they were paying to middle-men in China to obtain 457 visas.

All the costs of bringing in skilled migrants are supposed to fall on the employer, not the employees, but fees charged to workers have been so high that they are effectively indentured labourers who are afraid to speak out about mistreatment.

Last night, Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a register of reputable migration and recruitment agents in China.

Under the agreement, Chinese recruitment agents who agree to supply skilled workers to Australia without charging them a fee, will have their name listed on the websites of the Australian and Chinese departments. “Any recruitment agent who is found to have breached the guidelines will be removed from the websites,” Mr Andrews said.

However, a spokeswoman conceded there would be no formal policing of the agents on the register. The only way the Government would find out if an agent on the register was secretly charging fees would be if the workers themselves told authorities about it after they arrived here.

There would also be no requirement for Australian employers to use agents who were on the list, suggesting that unscrupulous employers could still find compliant workers if they worked through non-listed agents charging high fees.

The spokeswoman said the Government was considering seeking similar agreements with other countries who were large exporters of labour.

Mr Andrews said that the scheme would be attractive to employers.

“Employers who look to China to meet their skill needs and elect to use a Chinese recruitment agent listed on my department's website will be able to have additional peace of mind,” he said.

The Age reported last week the cases of two Filipino workers and one from Inner Mongolia, in China, who had died while working on 457 visas in Australia.

As of March 31, there were 101,608 workers in Australia on 457 visas, almost 30 per cent more than in the previous year.