$50mn to combat organised abuse of immigration programs

The primary focus of the Government's new initiative will be to combat organised abuse of immigration programs.

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To address the urgent need for immigration compliance, the Federal Government has committed $50 million to establish a new division and strike force within the Department of Home Affairs. The primary focus of this initiative will be to combat organised abuse of immigration programs and to resolve the status of individuals whose visa options have been exhausted but who remain in the country.

In response to alarming findings from the Nixon review, the Australian federal government has announced significant measures to tackle the exploitation of the country’s migration system by unscrupulous agents and organised criminals involved in human trafficking. The review, which examined the widespread abuse of vulnerable temporary migrants and international students, unveiled a troubling “almost industrial-scale” exploitation and exposed dangerous loopholes in Australia’s immigration policies.

Former Victoria Police commissioner Christine Nixon, who conducted the review, highlighted the grave concerns, stating that the system’s shortcomings had led to “abuses of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, and other organised crime.” The government has wasted no time in initiating reform actions to rectify such abuse of immigration programs.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil underscored the government’s commitment to eradicating exploitation, stating, “A permanent strike force, which will move around the immigration system and address the big problems that we see and make sure that the people who are responsible are routed out and held accountable.” She emphasised the significant transformation underway to ensure that migration agents adhere to the rules and regulations governing their profession.

Immigration law expert Dr Abul Rizvi lauded the announcement  as “excellent”.

“Big change in today’s announcement is creation of an immigration compliance division in Dept of Home Affairs taking this function out of Australian Border Force. Back to the future and another step in dismantling the Pezzullo architecture,” he wrote on X, previously known as twitter.

The Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority will see its resources doubled, and penalties for agents engaged in misconduct will be increased.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has announced that the authority will be granted additional powers to impose conditions on unscrupulous migration agents. Moreover, character tests for migration agents will be strengthened to ensure the highest level of integrity within the industry.

Operation Inglenook, which has previously focused on identifying and supporting victims of trafficking in the sex industry, will be expanded to encompass the entire migration system and become a permanent fixture. Recent successes of Operation Inglenook include the deportation of Binjun Xie, who was linked to a British human trafficking ring. Xie arrived in Australia on a student visa in 2014 but was later found to have not been studying. Despite applying for a partner visa and protection visa over a decade, both applications were refused.

The blame for the deterioration in immigration compliance was placed on the previous government by Minister O’Neil, who accused it of allowing the system to be “perpetrated for some of the worst crimes known to humanity.” She criticized the former Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton, for presenting himself as tough on border security.

In response, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton labeled O’Neil as “angry” and “aggressive,” suggesting her actions were driven by political motivations. According to ABC, Dutton also criticised the timing of the report’s release, asserting that it was designed to deflect attention from other issues in the lead-up to elections.

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