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A federal crackdown on visa fraud will see $50 million spent on tougher compliance and permanent investigation teams in a bid to stamp out criminal exploitation of the migration system beyond the sex industry and human trafficking.
The government will also tighten the rules on migration agents in Australia and consider ways to regulate similar agents overseas out of concern that the education, temporary worker and asylum seeker visa streams are being abused to bring in people who should be turned away.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil has released part of the government’s formal response to a report by former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon into the exploitation of the visa system.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
The new measures are part of the government’s formal response to a report by former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon into the exploitation of the visa system following the Trafficked series of reports by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, 60 Minutes and Stan.
Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles released their response at noon on Wednesday after months of debate over ways to tighten the system, including the $50 million outlay on federal officials to increase compliance with the rules.
The government will turn Operation Inglenook, a multi-agency team that has investigated dozens of cases of worker exploitation, into a permanent unit that will expand beyond its initial work in the sex industry and human trafficking.
The Trafficked series led to the creation of Inglenook, which scored a major success in recent weeks in the deportation of Binjun Xie, an alleged Sydney-based human trafficking kingpin. The taskforce has also blocked 45 foreign nationals with Australian visas who are deemed “known facilitators” of visa fraud.
A separate “permanent strike force” will be set up within the Department of Home Affairs to increase compliance tests on people applying for visas to enter Australia, with the government expressing significant concern about suspect behaviour by migration agents.
The changes include doubling the staff at the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority so it can examine the conduct of the agents more closely.
A key government concern is that migration agents and education agents are bringing in migrants who are not legitimate students and in some cases seek to extend their stay by claiming asylum.
The migration agent regulator will gain more power to deregister agents for misconduct and apply greater penalties for those caught abusing the system.
O’Neil and Giles blamed the Coalition for overseeing a 50 per cent fall in the number of compliance officers in the Department of Home Affairs and its precursors during its nine years of government from 2013 to 2022.
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