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June 1999, Volume 6, Number 6

Australia: Immigration Up, Illegals

The Australian government increased planned immigration from 80,000 immigrants in 1998-1999 to 82,000 in 1999-2000, including 12,000 places for refugees, 32,000 places for family reunion (up 600), 35,000 for skilled migrants (unchanged) and 3,000 in the special eligibility category (up 1,400). The skilled migrants must receive at least 110 points under a test that awards, for example, up to 70 points for persons with a college degree and three years work experience, 30 points for persons ages 18-29, 20 points for good English, and 10 to 15 points for having parents or siblings in Australia. For more information: />
On March 1, the Australian government announced a review to target illegal workers in the country and released a discussion paper, "The Hidden Workforce." There are an estimated 55,000 illegal foreigners in Australia; 12,000 were apprehended in 1998. Australia is considering having high-risk tourists pay a cash bond that would be refunded when they returned to their country of origin.

Chinese migrants have been arriving on Australia's remote north coast in small boats. Between June 1998 and May 1999, 21 boats carrying 270 illegal migrants, most from China, have been detected along Australia's northern and northwestern coasts. The Australian government announced a coastal surveillance task force to review the best ways to patrol Australia's 23,000 miles (37,000 km) of coastline.

Most of the Chinese are eventually deported. However, while in detention, several children have been born, which has led to controversy. The Australian government on May 10 called for an independent inquiry into claims that an unborn child was aborted from its eight and one-half month pregnant mother after the woman was deported to China. The woman arrived in Australia in 1994 and had a baby while in detention. Her asylum application was rejected, she appealed, and applied for asylum again after she became pregnant a second time; her application was again denied, and she was deported. The Independent Council for Refugee Advocacy asked the government to make Australia's policy similar to US policy, which permits Chinese protesting forced abortion to receive asylum.

Federal Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock released a statement on May 23 that predicted that Australia would be hit by another wave of illegal boat people smuggled into the country; about 1,600 unauthorized migrants have been detected trying to enter Australia in boats over the past eight months. The Australian High Commission in Nairobi said that the Islaweyn Trading and Engineering Co. in Mogadishu had charged 2,000 people $2,100 each to sail from the Somali port of El Ma'an and try to enter Australia illegally.

Economics. Australia has not been greatly affected by the Asian economic crisis. The contrast between Australia's affluence and Asia's problems was evident on May 11, 1999, when the Australian government presented a high-growth, surplus budget to Parliament amid further reports of violence in East Timor. Some Asian officials are asking Australia to become more involved in the region and help in the recovery.

Australia began to get more involved in Asia in the 1980s, in part to take advantage of the region's fast-growing economic growth. As the Asian economic crisis deepened, Australia became less involved: exports to Asia declined from two-thirds of Australia's total exports in 1997 to one-half in 1998. Australia's economy expanded by four percent in 1998.

The Australian media gave graphic accounts of attacks by East Timorese militia groups, backed by Indonesian troops and police, against supporters of independence and threats by the same groups against Australian journalists. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke of Australia said recently that East Timor was a "Kosovo emerging on our doorstep."

New Zealand's former prime minister, David Lange, said on May 12 that the country's immigration policy is a "racial powder keg" that could blow at any time. He said that refugees from places like Somalia and Ethiopia were given little support when they arrive and wealthy Asian immigrants had to return to their countries, leaving their families in New Zealand, because they could not find work. Lange said the immigration policies favor those with professional qualifications but when they look for work, the immigrants find that their qualifications are not recognized in New Zealand.

"Ruddock fears more boat people," AAP Newsfeed, May 23, 1999. Michael Richardson, "Affluent Australia Now Looks Askance at Asia," International Herald Tribune, May 13, 1999. David Barber, "New Zealand's immigration policy has become 'racial powder keg,' former PM claims," South China Morning Post, May 13, 1999. Andrea Carson, "Crackdown on illegal employees," The Age, May 7, 1999. Debra Way, "Govt orders inquiry into Chinese abortion claims," AAP Newsfeed, May 10, 1999.