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July 2004, Volume 11, Number 3

Australia, New Zealand, Tonga

Australia received 125,300 immigrants in 2002-03, while the natural increase in the population was 115,200. However, almost as many people left Australia permanently as arrived, and half of those departing were born in Australia. Australia, a country of 20 million, has 900,000 to one million citizens abroad, and the federal government is studying how to maintain links to the Australian diaspora.

Between 1946 and 1972, Australia subsidized the immigration of one million British "Ten Pound Poms," who paid a nominal 10 pounds to emigrate to Australia.

The 250,000 immigrants arriving in the five years to 2002 include 90,000 New Zealanders, 33,000 Chinese, 29,000 South Africans, and 23,000 Indians. As of June 20, 2002, there were 414,000 New Zealanders living in Australia; the migration of New Zealanders to Australia is the highest rate of migration between industrial countries.

In September 2001, a Norwegian ship rescued 433 Afghani asylum seekers from the ship Tampa. The government refused to allow them to land in Australia, a stance widely seen as contributing to the re-election of the conservative Howard government. Instead, the government implemented the so-called Pacific Solution, which required unauthorized foreigners arriving by ship to be processed by UNHCR on Nauru and Manus Islands. Of the 433 persons on the Tampa, 247 were found to be refugees, and most were resettled in New Zealand.

New Zealand. New Zealand received 34,900 immigrants in 2003, the most ever, and is seeking up to 50,000 immigrants a year (including family members) with a college education and English. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, a Maori who opposes higher immigration levels, charged that New Zealand was being turned into an "Asian colony" by "another immigrant invasion under the guise of meeting a shortage of skilled workers." The 260,000 ethnic Asians in New Zealand are about seven percent of the four million residents.

As a result of changes in its point system, immigrant applicants are now 40 percent British, 12 percent South African, eight percent Indian, and five percent German. Australia has the highest percentage of foreign-born workers among OECD countries, 26 percent, followed by New Zealand 22 percent; Canada 21 percent; and the US, 16 percent.

Tonga. Tonga, the Pacific Islands' last monarchy, had the highest share of remittances in its GDP of any country, 38 percent, in 2002. Tonga is one of 14 members of the Pacific Islands Forum that includes Australia and New Zealand, which have many migrants from PIF islands. Tonga has been independent of the UK since 1970. The Tonga Trust Fund earned money selling Tongan citizenship and passports, and lost $26 million when the king entrusted a US advisor to invest the money.

Tonga's major export is people: relatively well- educated Tongans migrate to New Zealand and the US. Tongan GDP per capita is about $1,350; most families receive remittances from relatives abroad. The other major exports are off-season (October to November) squash sent to Japan, and fish. The 100,000 residents of Tonga imported $83 million worth of goods in 2002, or $830 each.