$20m illegal migrant bill falls on taxpayers
By Renee Viellaris
April 14, 2008 04:29am
Article from: The Courier-Mail
TAXPAYERS have been slapped with a $20 million bill to deport thousands of migrants illegally working in Queensland and southern states.
More than 11,000 illegal workers and visa overstayers have been detained in Australia in the past financial year as the skills shortage continues to lure them to struggling industries.
But taxpayers were left with a $20 million travel bill because 5056 of the 11,000 migrants couldn't afford airfares home.
More than 5500 were caught in Queensland in the past four years, stealing millions of dollars from the economy.
Nationally, more than 60,000 illegals have been identified by police and the Immigration Department since 2003.
Government statistics, obtained exclusively by The Courier-Mail, show the majority of illegal workers are from China, Indonesia and Korea, and they are hired in the service, agriculture and manufacturing industries.
And although more than 1600 Chinese illegal workers and overstayers were identified last year – and 8401 since 2003 – the issue was unlikely to have been raised during Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's meeting with President Hu Jintao.
Immigration Minister Senator Chris Evans, pictured, has vowed to keep tracking down illegal workers and has encouraged people to call a dob-in line if they believe workplaces have hired illegal migrants.
It comes as highly placed sources revealed the Australian Taxation Office is receiving and accepting tax payments from illegal workers.
Earlier this month department compliance officers detained 13 people working in the agricultural industry near the town of Dimbulah, about 100km southwest of Cairns.
Eight men and five women, who are all Malaysians, were netted in a Queensland police and department investigation.
Nine were unlawful non-citizens and four had their visas cancelled for breaching work conditions. All will be deported from Australia.
The operation was based on information from the community, who had advised Queensland Police about concerns people were working illegally in the area.
Senator Evans said the Rudd Government would not turn a blind eye to illegal workers.
“The department's compliance officers are committed to maintaining the integrity of Australia's visa program by locating people working illegally and overstaying their visas,” Senator Evans said.
NSW continues to be the haven for illegal workers and visa overstayers, with 33,439 caught since 2003.
Victoria recorded the second highest number with 13,137, while Queensland was the third most likely destination for illegal workers.