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Tuesday, 6 September 1983
Page: 375

Mr LEO McLEAY —I draw the attention of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to an article appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning regarding immigration to Australia from Lebanon. Is it true that the rejection rate for migration and visitor applications from the Lebanon is unduly high? What is the Government's response to the present resurgence of civil strife and military activity in the Lebanon in regard to migration of Lebanese nationals to Australia?

Mr WEST —The visitor visa acceptance rate for the Lebanon is 84 per cent and the migration acceptance rate for 1982-83 is 11 per cent, or 648 sponsored permanent residents. It is true that this is a slightly lower figure than Australia's acceptance rate on a world wide basis. Honourable members would be aware of the current surge in civil strife and military activity in the Lebanon. This week I have examined whether special measures are required in respect of migration from the Lebanon.

In July 1982 the former Government introduced measures to expedite family reunion cases and to extend visitor visas to Lebanese who were in Australia. Those measures were withdrawn in December 1982. Today this Government has decided on the following actions: To re-activate the expedition of family reunions from the Lebanon; to waive the two year permanent resident requirement for new sponsorships-that is, sponsorships by close relatives from within Australia-and to give special consideration to family reunion cases which fail the economic-social assessment scale by which prospective migrants are assessed. That means that any people who are unduly affected by the fighting in the Lebanon will be given special consideration if they are sponsored and they do not get through the socio-economic assessment. We will extend the visitor visas of Lebanese who are currently in Australia until 31 October this year and then I will review the situation. Finally, no Lebanese national who is currently in Australia will be deported, either as a prohibited immigrant or under our criminal deportation policy until we are in a position to review the situation in the Lebanon. This is a measured response to a critical situation in the Lebanon having regard to the up to 80,000 Lebanese permanent residents already in Australia. I should mention that under the United Nations definition of a refugee, we cannot designate people in the Lebanon as United Nations-type refugees. They are victims of a civil war inside their own country. The measures that we have introduced today should ameliorate the situation for concerned relatives and visitors in Australia.