Australia’s annual migrant intake is continuing to fall as tougher border checks and visa security combine to slash the number of new arrivals.
A Home Affairs official told an Australian Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra that the intake for 2016-2017 had been 183,608 people, while the 2017-2018 number was down to 138,086 as of April 30. It means Australia’s most recent intake of foreign migrants will fall 20,000 short of the annual cap, SBS News reports.
The 138,086 number was made up of 91,302 in skilled migration, 44,193 family visas and 2,591 children.
Last year Australia announced plans to tighten its citizenship rules to require higher English language skills, longer residency and evidence of integration through consistent employment. It is also making migrants wait longer before they can access any government benefits or assistance after arrival while securing the country’s borders.
Operation Sovereign Borders, introduced by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2013, sees smuggler-boats intercepted at sea and migrants either returned to where they came from or taken to offshore processing centres. Migrants found to be legitimate asylum seekers have been settled in third countries at Australia’s expense.
Department of Home Affairs head Michael Pezzullo acknowledged the latest drop, saying the numbers come as the government improved “checking mechanisms” for migrants by linking security databases. He said:
As we connect what were formerly standalone, isolated immigration integrity risk systems to intelligence databases … as you couple more databases onto your checking mechanism, you get more what are known as ‘hits’ in our trade. They have to be resolved.
Mr. Pezzullo confirmed the government is on track to achieve the lowest annual immigration intake for a decade, with 138,086 people being processed in the past 10 months.
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