Australian PM Scott Morrison’s government has introduced a bill to change the Migration Act – one which aims at making the Australian Citizenship Character Test stricter. ‘The proposed change, if passed, could increase deportation by five times, therefore affecting lives of thousands of aspiring Australian citizens,’ according to migration experts.
The change, which was introduced by Immigration Minister David Colemen in July says, “visa-holders who have committed a crime that carries a maximum sentence of at least two years, such as common assault, will automatically fail the character test, even if they are not sentenced to jail”.
In a submission to the Senate committee examining the change, migration experts say that it could result in the number of people deported or refused a visa on character grounds increasing “by a factor of five.”
“While difficult to compare, this may be one of the most significant retrospective applications of new legislation in recent parliamentary history, particularly for a bill with negative consequences for people,” they wrote in the submission.
In 2014, when the Act was last changed, the government allowed deportation of non-citizens sentenced to at least 12 months jail for their crime – 4,150 visas have been cancelled since, of which more than a 1000 were New Zealanders. The proposed change is also expected to affect New Zealanders the most. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly said the deportations are having a “corrosive” impact on the relationship between the two countries.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern has repeatedly expressed concern to the Australian government that New Zealand citizens who were long-term Australian residents were captured by the visa crackdown.
However, David Coleman, Australia’s Minister for Immigration, has said that the tougher measures are “important.”
“We make absolutely no apologies for protecting the Australian community from these harmful people, and we will act decisively whenever we are made aware of that,” he said.