24 April 2009

Temporary Australian visa holder abandons ship

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An Australian visa holder working on a ship abandoned his position in Gladstone, Queensland.

The man, an Iranian national, had a valid Australian visa to work on the ship in Australian waters; however, once at Gladstone the man left his posting and refused to return to his ship or accept his shipping agents offer of transport back to Iraq.

After being found in a restaurant in Gladstone, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) cancelled his Australian visa and arrested him as an illegal immigrant.

Trevor Phillips, Mission to Seafarers chaplain, said that this is not an uncommon problem for shipping agencies, which often source their labour from countries that are experiencing political or economic instability because they provide cheaper labour. 

While the economic advantages are clear, often people hired from such countries come into contact with countries that exhibit social, political and economic strength.  As a result, they see emigrating to Australia illegally and absconding an attractive option.

"In order to cut costs, international shipping companies source labour from poorer countries. About 50 per cent of crews are from the Philippines, with the rest made up of workers from China, Eastern Europe and Myanmar," the Gladstone Observer reported Phillips as saying.

"These men sometimes work every day non-stop for nine months, depending on the ship.  Contracts and pay vary according to nationality and while it varies from ship to ship, some workers endure bad equipment and conditions," he said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) said that the man in question will be removed from the country for breaching the conditions of his temporary Australian visa. 

"He is now in an immigration detention centre in Brisbane. People without a valid visa to remain in Australia may be detained and subsequently removed from Australia.  A man who deserted his ship in March (in Gladstone) has had his visa cancelled. He is flagged on the department's system as an unlawful non-citizen and as such is subject to compliance action," the spokesperson said.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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