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March 1998, Volume 5, Number 3

Australia: Immigration Down

In the year ending June 30, 1997, some 85,800 immigrants arrived in Australia, down 14 percent from 97,800 in 1995-96. In 1996-97, 13,100 New Zealanders immigrated; under the Trans Tasman Travel Agreement, there is no limit on New Zealand immigration. The number of long-term nonimmigrant residents increased; some 175,200 foreigners arrived intending to stay in Australia for 12 months or more as students (50,500) or business people.

Australia had 18.5 million residents on June 30, 1997, and immigration accounted for 43 percent of the 220,000 population increase between 1995-96 and 1996-97. About 1.2 million Australian residents, seven percent of the population, were born in the UK, followed by two percent born in New Zealand, and followed by persons born in Italy and Vietnam.

Australia expects 68,000 immigrants in 1997/98, down from 74,000 in 1996/97 and 83,000 in 1995/96. As in Canada, Australia reduced family immigration, from 42,000 in 1995/96 (reflecting amendments made in December 1995), to 32,000 in 1997/98, and increased the number of skill-based immigrants, from 28,500 in 1995/96 (reflecting amendments made in December 1995), to 35,260 in 1997/98.

There are 70,000 foreign students in Australia. Students reportedly pay A$250 ($167) for a foreign student visa and promise to go to school full-time in Australia, and to pay full tuition and fees. Once in Australia, they reportedly take the fewest possible courses and work as many hours as possible. There are reportedly 40,000 illegal foreigners in Australia at any one time. About 2,800, four percent of the foreign students, reportedly overstay their visas and go to work.

The Australian government may consider allowing more migrants into the country influenced by a new report showing that the population will decline in the next century. The Department of Immigration's report, "Population Flows," was released on February 1, and suggests that Australia's population into the next century will not be as high as forecast in 1995.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics forecast in 1995 Australia's population would grow from 18.1 million in 1995 to between 22.5 and 23.9 million in 2021 and up to 28.3 million in 2051. The annual immigration intake has decreased by about 20 per cent, with net permanent overseas migration falling from around 70,000 in 1995-96 to 56,000 in 1996-97 and due to fall further in 1997-98.

Over 1,200 people have filed a class action suit in the Australian Federal Court charging discriminatory visa treatment for applicants from Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iraq, China and the former Yugoslavia. As of October, 1997, the Australian government required new special visas for people from the six countries who had arrived prior to November 1, 1993. The trial is expected to begin in March.

A new book by a former advisor to Pauline Hanson, "The Pauline Hanson Story: By The Man Who Knows," by John Pasquarelli, says that Hanson's 1996 speech opposing increased Asian immigration, which briefly made her second only to the prime minister in citations in the media, was a product of chance. However, once Hanson realized that the public favored less Asian immigration, she made it the centerpiece of her proposals.

There were over 11,000 asylum applications in Australia in 1997, up from 500 in 1987. Australia grants asylum applicants temporary work permits and gives them access to state-funded medical care, while their applications are pending. There have been press reports that some foreigners entered Australia, applied for asylum, received medical care, and left Australia. Over 85 percent of the asylum applications are rejected.

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs reports that 78 percent of the business migrants from Taiwan, Malaysia and South Africa successfully established their businesses after three years. Business migrants brought into Australia a total of A$ 360 million and created 3,500 jobs between 1993 and 1994.

The Australian Department of Immigration revealed that although 80 percent of the country's one million eligible immigrants planned to take out citizenship within six months of arrival, a year later only 108,000 had become citizens. Malaysians, Indonesians, Germans, Canadians and North Americans were the least likely to do so, the figures showed, with most citing a desire to keep their current passport. Ten percent said they thought it unnecessary while others said they would keep their nationality so that they could return to their homeland. Most "new" Australians in 1997 were from Britain and China.

The report also found that the total number of immigrants entering Australia in 1997 was lower, and that there was a rise in skilled and business migrants. More than 19,000 migrants arrived in the three months to September 1997, down 15.2 percent over the same period in 1996.

Several newspaper articles reported that Asians view Australians as ungovernable and criminal because of the early use of the country as a convict settlement. The Center for the Study of Australia-Asia Relations at Griffith University found that many Japanese and Koreans consider Australia a "semi-developed country."

"Australia Rejects Temporary Entry for Indonesian Laborers, Associated Press, February 20, 1998. Bruce Walkley, "Legal Class Action Over Migrant Discrimination Claim," AAP Newsfeed, February 3, 1998. "Australian Govt to Consider Proposals to Increase Migration," AAP Newsfeed, February 2, 1998. Peter Chen, "Business Migrants from ROC, Malaysia, S. Africa Find Success," Central News Agency, January 5, 1998. "Fewer immigrants taking Australian citizenship," Agence France Presse, January 14, 1998. "Asians see Aussies as 'rude, uncouth, lazy and hypocritical,'" The Straits Times, January 5, 1998.