The Age
Kosovars to go home but intake up


Tuesday 4 April 2000

CANBERRA - The Federal Government announced last night that Australia's annual immigration intake would be boosted by nearly 10 per cent as it confirmed that 259 Kosovars here on temporary "safe haven" visas will be shipped home on 8 April.

The federal Minister for Immigration, Mr Philip Ruddock, said the number of places in the 2000-01 non-humanitarian migration program would be increased by 6000 to 76,000 places.

He said the increase would include an extra 5000 places in the Government's Skill Stream program - which selects immigrants on the basis of their ability to make an economic contribution - and 2400 extra places in the family-reunion program.

The special eligibility program will be cut be 1400.

"The further shift in the balance of the program towards the skill stream will deliver additional economic, budgetary and employment benefits, particularly given the skill shortages that have emerged in the Australian economy," Mr Ruddock said.

"The increase in the skill stream will enable us to afford a small increase in the family stream," he said.

Mr Ruddock also announced that Australia's humanitarian program intake would remain at 12,000 places, bringing total immigration numbers next financial year to 86,000.

But Mr Ruddock said the Government would also make room for up to 4000 extra places for the migration of aged parents provided relatives in Australia agreed to meet the cost of care for their parents, thereby placing no extra cost burden on the taxpayer.

Under the contingency reserve, aged parents would have to pay a $10,000 social security bond for the main applicant and $4000 for each adult dependent.

That bond would be refundable with interest after 10 years if the parents had not accessed welfare payments in the meantime.

They would also be required to take out private health insurance to cover their first 10 years in Australia or pay a health services charge of $25,000 per person.

Mr Ruddock said the plan, which is similar to a system overturned by the Senate last year, was the result of requests from migrants to have their aged parents join them in Australia, without becoming a burden on the taxpayer.

Mr Ruddock said another 5000 extra places would also be reserved for use by employers, regional authorities and state and territory governments who wished to sponsor extra migrants and meet the cost of bringing them to Australia and guaranteeing them employment.

The 5000 skilled contingency reserve category was not being used by employers or by state and territory governments in the 1999-2000 year.

Meanwhile, more than half of the remaining Kosovar refugees in Australia on "safe haven" visas will be asked to return home on 8April, Mr Ruddock said.

He said another 130 Kosovars would have their temporary visas extended for medical reasons, while another 110 would be allowed to apply for protection visas. Another two Kosovars who had married Australians would be permitted to apply for partner visas.

Original article