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Crackdown continues on illegal workers

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R e l e a s eThe Hon. Philip Ruddock MPMinister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for ReconciliationParliament House, Canberra A C T 2600 Telephone: (02) 6277 7860 Facsimile: (02)6273 4144 CRACKDOWN CONTINUES ON ILLEGAL WORKERS

A two-day operation in Victoria’s Mildura area has resulted in 18 people being located working illegally on fruit and vegetable farms, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, said today.

Mr Ruddock said the successful operation, conducted between 16-17 March, was further evidence that the Government was determined to continue its crackdown on overstayers and people working in breach of their visa conditions.

“The Government has no intention of turning a blind eye to those who break the law. Nor is it sympathetic to employers who suggest it is all right to employ illegal workers because they are the only ones prepared to do the 'dirty work’, or complain because they have their illegal workforce taken away from them

at a crucial time.

Ί am concerned there may be instances where employers choose not to ask some simple questions of prospective employees to determine if they have the right to work in Australia.

"Employers should ask all prospective employees for proof of identity and immigration status - even if they have been sent by a contractor or agency.

“They can easily avoid using illegal labour by contacting my Department on its 24-hour hotline of 131 881. Employers who knowingly hire illegal workers can be charged with an offence under the Commonwealth Crimes Act."

Mr Ruddock said it was also time employers asked themselves why they can’t get Australians to do this work and examined the pay and conditions they offered workers.

“The Government is doing its part to address this issue and I am working with the Minister for Employment Services to see what can be done to assist unemployed Australians to consider these jobs that are available in regional Australia."

“In addition, I have announced a review to examine ways to ensure employers do not hire illegal workers and that people visiting Australia do not work illegally. This review will offer employers, including farmers, every opportunity to raise issues of concern and to put their points of view.

“A review will establish whether employers should be under a duty to satisfy themselves that the people they employ have work rights.

“While I am concerned about imposing any additional regulations on business, we need to balance the interests of our visitor and migration arrangements with the fact that we have to protect work opportunities for those who have the right to work in Australia,"

The Minister said that in January a record 977 illegal workers were located. In February a further 910 people were located.

“Of the 18 people located around Mildura this week, nine were found to be in Australia unlawfully while the remaining nine were working in breach of the terms and conditions of their visas."

The group of 15 men and three women included Indians, Thai’s, Britons, Fijians, Israelis and a Vietnamese.

Four were released on Bridging Visas to organise their immediate departure. The remaining 14 are in immigration detention in Melbourne while arrangements are made for them to depart Australia.

The Minister said his Department regularly data-matched information about individuals with other Commonwealth Government agencies such as the Australian Tax Office and the Health Insurance Commission (Medicare) in order to apprehend illegal workers.

“People who are found to be in the country illegally or working illegally face having their visas cancelled and being detained and removed from Australia. They are also liable for the cost of their detention and removal.

“In addition, their details are placed on the Department’s Movement Alert List (MAL), which means that any future application to visit Australia is more carefully scrutinised.”

Between 1 July 1998 and 28 February 1999, a total of 8,589 people have been located in Australia who have either overstayed or been found working in breach of their visa conditions. The figure represents a six per cent increase on the same period last year.

ENDS 18 March 1999

Media Inquiries: Brad Robinson (02) 6277 7860 or

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