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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2599

Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. In view of the deteriorating situation under the Marcos regime in the Philippines, has there been an increase in the level of interest in emigration to Australia from the Philippines? Have there been any delays in processing applications? Can the Minister indicate the increase in the number of people granted visas under each migration category now being used by his Department?

Senator GRIMES —I have information from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on this matter. There has been a significant increase in interest in migration and visitor entry in the Philippines since July 1985. In August alone 56,000 people sought to make application at our mission in Manila. This increased interest could be attributable in part to some minor policy and procedural changes which were contained in the announcement in the 1985-86 migration program. As Senator Childs suggests, the current situation in the Philippines may obviously also be a contributing factor. Experience suggests that the above changes caused many people to assume that our policy had been relaxed.

Since October the Embassy has been receiving between 30 and 40 migration applications each day. Priority is given to processing family migration cases, including fiances but, as Senator Childs would know, we are in a time of strict resources restraint and recent work load increases have resulted in processing delays for certain cases increasing by up to five months. Interviews are currently being scheduled for March and April 1986. The Department has already allocated a small increase in staffing resources to the Manila operation, but this of course is at the expense of other migration posts whose resources are stretched to the limit.

Our Embassy in Manila expects to visa some 4,000 migrants and more than 10,000 visitors during 1985-86. This compares with fewer than 3,000 migrants and just over 7,000 visitors during 1984-85. A comparison of figures of persons visaed in the September quarters for 1984 and 1985 reflect the overall increase. Family migration increased from 694 in 1984 to 985 in 1985; there was a decrease in skilled labour from 30 in 1984 to 10 in 1985; there was an increase in employer nominees from four in 1984 to 10 in 1985; in both 1984 and 1985 there were no business migration visas or independent migration visas; there were no special eligibility visas in 1984 and there was one in 1985; and the refugee special humanitarian program showed there were 89 in 1984 and 65 in 1985. In total there was an increase from 817 in 1984 to 1,071 in 1985. Every effort is made within available staff resources to process migration applications as quickly as possible, particularly where family reunion is involved. It goes without saying that speedy processing should not be done at the expense of Australia's high standard of entry requirements.