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Saturday March 02, 2024

Australia eyes cutting down migrant intake by 50%

Visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers to be tightened as well

By Web Desk
December 11, 2023
Tourists stand on rocks as they take photographs in front of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge on a spring day on November 13, 2023. — AFP
Tourists stand on rocks as they take photographs in front of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge on a spring day on November 13, 2023. — AFP

The Australian government on Monday unveiled a new 10-year immigration strategy to halve migration intake within two years to address its "broken" immigration system, aiming to reduce the annual intake to 250,000 by June 2025, the BBC reported.

Additionally, Australia's migration plan will tighten visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers as migration has climbed to record levels giving rise to housing and infrastructure issues.

However, the country's struggle to attract skilled workers amid shortage continues.

At a media briefing on Monday, Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil said the migration system had been left "in tatters" by the previous government. She said that a review earlier this year found the system was "badly broken" — unnecessarily complex, slow and inefficient — and in need of "major reform".

The minister vowed that her government would "bring numbers back under control" and reduce the annual migration intake by around 50% after a record 510,000 people came to Australia in the year to June 2023.

Australia has toughened English-language requirements for international students and increased scrutiny for those applying for a second visa.

The country has 650,000 foreign students, many on their second visa. Additionally, visa pathways for migrants with "specialist" or "essential" skills have been tweaked to improve their chances of permanent residency.

The new policies will attract more of the workers Australia needs and help reduce the risk of exploitation for those who live, work and study in the country, O'Neil said.

According to the BBC, opposition migration spokesman Dan Tehan said that the government was "too slow to adjust migration policies designed to help Australia recover from the pandemic."

"The horse has bolted when it comes to migration and the government not only cannot catch it but cannot find it," he said at the weekend.

The Labor government's popularity has declined since its election, prompting pressure to temporarily reduce migration to alleviate Australia's housing crisis.

However, the Business Council of Australia said that migrants are being used as a scapegoat for inadequate investment in affordable housing and poor policy.