With more than 1 million people working in Australia on temporary work visas, claims are revealing fraudulent visa applications on the black market and exploitation of Australia’s visa regime. The immigration department is currently facing more referred allegations of corruption in the past 12 months than the watchdog has received since 2006.
In the past, investigators have uncovered a multitude of fraudulent visa applications across Australia, however, in most cases charges were minimal or never made. According to Fairfax Media, the immigration department ignored situations of perpetrators rorting the student and work visa systems by allowing foreigners to pay for entry into Australia and to create phantom jobs and visa sponsorship.
One example of this was in 2014 when a Queensland whistle-blower’s reports of visa rorting and “people smuggling” by Murphy Pipe and Civil was not investigated by the immigration department until Fairfax Media revealed the allegations, leading to raids of the company. Although there was strong evidence of potential criminal breaches, the company was fined only $3,500 and banned from sponsoring visa workers for four years.
As past fraudulent activity has not been effectively managed, there is now little deterrence for perpetrators, causing Senator Nick Xenophon to demand major reform of the anti-corruption measures and charges within Australia.
Many of the corruption allegations within the immigration department have not yet been verified. The publishment by Fairfax Media and The Age were also made without giving the Department of Immigration or the Australian Border Force the opportunity to respond.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s Response
In response to visa corruption allegations made by Fairfax, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection have announced that they notified the Media company that the matters they intended on reporting were based on false information, were too historical to be relevant or were ongoing investigations which could not be concluded upon.
The Department stated that any relevant data Fairfax used predated 1 July 2015 or evidence that did exist is still being used in ongoing investigations.
In response to allegations made against the Department and its internal operations, they are currently running thorough investigations, reviewing licensing arrangements for customs brokers and will cancel or suspend any license of border security personnel if there is evidence of wrongdoings.
The Australian Border Force is committed to protecting Australia’s borders and has shown their zero tolerance to serious misconduct and corruption by introducing reforms on 1 July 2015 that included:
– Random and targeted drug and alcohol testing
– The establishment of a Special Investigation Unit
– Mandatory reporting of suspected serious misconduct, corrupt conduct or criminal activity
– Development of ethical decision-making training programme
– Declaration and record system of real, potential and perceived conflicts of interest
– Requiring employees to declare changes to personal circumstances, ensuring workplace and security clearances were suitable
– Requirement for existing and new employees to undergo employment suitability screening to gain and maintain Commonwealth security clearance.
Labor Government’s Efforts
In a bid to take power on 2 July 2016, the Labor Government are promising a proposal and policy to boost the protection of Australia’s visa regime. This will include adjusting labour market testing requirements, introducing public registers, and quickening the processing of temporary work visas through a “risk-tiered” system. This proposal is to prioritise Australian jobs and eliminate exploitation of holders of work visas through penalties if employers are found committing criminal and civil offences.
This article serves as a timely reminder to employers who are currently looking to sponsor visa holders to ensure the employment arrangement is ethical and meets Australian standards.
For further information regarding employment law and arrangements in Australia please contact the National Retail Association Hotline on 1800 RETAIL (738 245).