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Australian visa overstay issue grows

The Australian newspaper has published figures indicating that almost 20,000 people overstayed their Australian visa validity period during the financial year 2011/2012, more than double the number five years ago.

The figures highlight an immigration issue that has largely evaded media scrutiny; generally, media attention has been focused on the issue of asylum seekers arriving by boat, but the recently researched figures reveal that the number of people entering the country legally on an Australian visa and then failing to leave is a much bigger problem.

The 8,000 and rising asylum seekers that have arrived in Australia so far this year have dominated news reports and political debate but the number is dwarfed in comparison to the approximately 19,540 people who overstayed their visa in the last financial year.

The data, obtained by The Australian, showed the rate of overstayers had doubled in the past five years, during which time over 75,000 people had overstayed their visa. Furthermore, the data claimed it cost Australian immigration authorities as much as AU$5,000 (£3,200) to deport each person.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said while the number was of genuine concern, it represented just a fraction of the number of visitors to Australia each year who abided by the terms and conditions of their visas.

‘In 2011-12, more than 99% of more than 4.8 million temporary entrants complied with the requirement to leave Australia prior to their visa expiring’, said the spokesperson, who added that the government had also improved methods to tackle the abuse.

‘Immigration compliance operations have actually led to about a 25% increase in the number of visa over-stayers and other unlawful non-citizens being detected and either removed from Australia or having their status regularised.’


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