25 March 2009
Fraudulent migration agents uncovered as Evans looks to protect people emigrating to Australia
Student visa holders emigrating to Australia using fraudulent 'migration agents' have been uncovered by the Australian Government. The operation was the product of intensive investigation and collaboration from a number of government departments, and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Evans and the Migration Institute of Australia is hoping that the foiling of the racket will work to discourage more people from abusing the system.
Three 'migration agents' were allegedly involved in the illegal trade, which the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), the Australian Federal Police, and other agencies helped to foil. The agents were working on behalf of Australian student visa holders trying to cheat the Australian immigration system by emigrating to Australia through illegal means.
Senator Evans said the students were supplied fake documentation that stated they had skills in areas that are in demand in the Australian workforce, including trades such as cooking, hairdressing, horticultural work and car mechanics. Recently, the Australian Government announced a reduction in the number of trades considered to be in demand on the Critical Skills List (CSL), so that it could prioritise and approve those Australian visa applicants emigrating to Australia that were necessary to the growth of the Australian economy.
If the courts find the offenders guilty, the migration agents could face imprisonment for up to 10 years, while the Australian visa holders could have their visas cancelled.
"Illegal activity by migration agents attacks the heart of Australia's visa programs and will not be tolerated. This operation is further evidence of the government’s resolve to target migration fraud," Senator Evans said.
As of 01 July 2009, the regulatory body that watches over Australian migration agents will become an offshoot of DIAC. The body, the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA), is currently under the jurisdiction of the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA), which is an independent institute comprised of qualified and registered migration agents.
The MIA has released a statement about this incident, claiming that examples such as this are just "the tip of the iceberg".
"Back in May 2008 we reported some 60 cases of suspected illegal activity to the Department of Immigration for investigation, some of them involved overseas students," said MIA CEO, Ms Maurene Horder.
The MIA have urged DIAC to continue its efforts to flush out those unregistered ‘agents’, education agents or unlawful migration agents who are tarnishing the gold reputation of the Australian migration system by helping cheats emigrating to Australia through illegal and illicit means.
"If any registered agent is reported to us for improper activity we act immediately through the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) to have any breach of the Code of Conduct appropriately sanctioned."
"MARA though, has its limitations - including its investigative powers - which won’t change when it is absorbed into the Department of Immigration in July. So, it really is vital that the Department step up and implement its authority more broadly to get rid of the many rogue operators and scam artists who are out there."
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.