UKIP take note: Australia’s immigration system is far from perfect

Human rights abuses, public dissatisfaction and a failure to get the numbers down make Australia a curious role model for Farage


Yesterday UKIP’s Migration spokesman Steven Woolfe introduced the party’s immigration policy in central London. It includes plans for a visa system designed on the Australian points-based system (PBS), which party members have often praised in the past.

Australia operates a General Skilled Migration points system, which requires prospective migrants to meet a certain number of points which are awarded based on age, English language proficiency, education, skills and work experience. Advocates of the system say that it ensures migrants contribute more in tax than they consume in public services, encourages more committed applicants who want to integrate, and creates a highly skilled, professional workforce.

But there are a number of problems with the system. For UKIP, one of the first things to think about might be numbers. The 2011 census revealed that 25 per cent of Australians are born overseas, compared to 13 per cent in England and Wales. The UK is the leading country of birth for the overseas-born population for Australia, (20.8 per cent, followed by New Zealand (9.1 per cent), China (six per cent) and India (5.6 per cent). The points-based system was adopted by Australia in 1989, but migration soared throughout the mid-90s.

Australian politicians are still using immigration numbers as a battleground in their campaigns. Kevin Rudd’s 2007-10 government cut the target to 168,000 and in 2010 Tony Abbott proposed a maximum target of 170,000 over concerns about the economic downturn – he said net migration was 277,000 in 2009. A 2014 poll by the Lowy Institute showed that 37 per cent of Australians think migration is too high – and that 37 per cent of these were worried mostly about jobs.

Furthermore, the people that UKIP are most committed to keeping out – EU applicants – would not be greatly affected by a PBS.  As Jonathan Lindsell of Civitas has pointed out:

“The PBS ‘skilled occupations list’ includes not only surgeons and engineers (whom we already let in) but plumbers, electricians, builders. Many EU/EEA applicants would, then, still qualify.”

Australia’s immigration minister sets a cap each year on migrants entering via the PBS route – for 2013-14 it was 190,000. As Lindsell notes, scaling that for the UK population would result in a cap of 513,900. Real total entry into the UK in 2013 was 526,000. If we also take into account people who are accepted on the basis of asylum, family unificiation or study, this would actually increase the number of people entering the UK.

Another concern about the Australian system is the offshore asylum policy. In 2013 Amnesty International found that Manus Island, Australia’s asylum seeker processing centre, was not only a humiliating and traumatic experience for refugees – it found insufficient water, lack of hygiene facilities  and bullying by staff- but that it was almost entirely ineffective.

In 2013, Amnesty calculated that Australian taxpayers would spend over a billion dollars on Manus Island and Nauru, its sister detention centre, but that since it opened in 2012 just one asylum seeker had been ‘processed’ and granted refugee status. Noone could give a time frame for the process of other asylum seekers, who had tried to come to Australia from some of the most brutal regimes in the world.

Last year Immigration minister Scott Morrison introduced a bill last month to lower the threshold for deporting asylum seekers. It means that people have to somehow prove that they ‘more than a 50 per cent chance’ of being harmed if they return to their home country.

In 2014 a comprehensive survey showed that over a third of recent migrants to Australia felt they had been discriminated against because of their skin colour or ethnicity. More than 41 per cent of migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds said they experienced discrimination in the last year.

I am not equipped to give a critique of Australian society, and every country in the world has problems with discrimination and prejudice, whatever its immigration policy. But it is clear that the immigration debate in Australia is far from over, and that, with reports about abuses in Yarls Wood Prison coming to light, and persistent public worry about integration, Australia is not neccessarily the best model for the UK to look to when deciding how to filter, and how to treat, migrants.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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17 Responses to “UKIP take note: Australia’s immigration system is far from perfect”

  1. Bernard Fox

    Typical another hatchet attempt by the press on UKIP. No one said that UKIP would put in place the exact same system as Australia Just an Australian STYLE system designed for British use and not for Australia which has different needs! UKIP will decide what it wants exactly and pick the best points from the Australian system and adopt, adapt, reject parts and even invent other parts which would work for us! Why is it that the press are so against UKIP, Yet the Voting public are becoming increasingly for UKIP’s policies? Could it be their friends in LibLabCon are threatening not to tell them anything in future?

  2. Silvia Vousden

    Oh for goodness sake, the article was critiquing the SYSTEM of an immigration points system, however you try to jig it. UKIP have had to admit that trying to control immigration is not going to be successful

  3. Silvia Vousden

    UKIP are not antl establishment, they ARE the establishment, being 90% funded by Tories and having 90% of their members being ex Tories. If people want a protest vote, they should at least vote for a party that will attempt to improve the lot of the working class. Vote TUSC (Trades Union and Socialist Coalition), vote National Health Action Party, vote Green, anything but a bunch of rich twats who will no doubt form a coalition with the Tory party given half a chance.

  4. damon

    Addoping an Australia points based system does not mean that the UK would calibrate its system the same as Australia’s. Which is one ridiculous point made by the shrill and dishonest James O’Brien on LBC radio to a Ukip supporting caller last year. The British system would be designed for Britain.
    It might be unworkable though. I have no blind faith that it could work.
    The system we have had in the UK in the last twenty years ago have obviously not worked well though.
    John Reid when he was home secretary said that the asylum system had broken down.
    Many of the boroughs with the highest rates of new immigration are some of the most deprived in the UK.
    Brent in London is over 50% foreign born and a walk around Harlsden will show you how scruffy and deprived it looks. There will be plenty of houses worth half a million pounds in the borough, and not far away, whole streets that have become a shadowy bedsitland to accommodate all the newcomers. And the British and longer term residents who could never afford to buy now and have to rent rooms to live in.
    No planning was put into any of this.

  5. Guest

    We have a points-based system. It’s far harsher than Australia’s and is turning six-figure earners (and the companies/departments they’d have lead) away.

    That you say that your bigotry and determination to uphold the very discrimination which causes poverty is inherent in the people you detest so much…is bigotry. You then repeat the same old myths, trying to make British people homeless.

    So WHAT your kind of hate should be tolerated, you say. So WHAT that people get hurt, and poverty spreads. So WHAT, they’re only foreigners after all eh? And of course it’s so evil that people resist being sent back to be killed, in the asylum, which is a completely separate system and one which Farrage strongly supports.

    And then you defend your buddy the guard.

    Who evidently said nothing you disagree with.

  6. Guest

    No, they want a far harsher system than the already harsher-than-Asustralia system we akready have, And I see, you’d block the entire 99% – plus stop the peons fleeing.

    Keep whining about conspiracies, as you promote the Banker-Lead UKIP, who plunge deeply into your beloved neoliberal promises, lies, sleaze and criminal actions, against the British people’s interest as a whole.

    The “threat” is appeasing your far right, no more and no less.

  7. damon

    Leon, you’re not worth conversing with. You’re a cliché.

  8. Guest

    No, you demanding I be a cliche, as you double down in defending the guard. Not the same thing.

    And of course you’re so scared of not hating others you won’t talk to people who don’t go there automagically. Why, tolerance might break out or something (and you’d get cooties).

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    The points-based system we have turns away people who have later got into America on O1 “superstar” visa’s. Seven I know of and counting in my field.

  10. damon

    I’ve got better things to do right now, and won’t be coming back to this.

  11. Guest

    You’ve got food to steal, as you run away without being able to refute a single word said. Run demon, run.

  12. Bernard Fox

    Oh dear you really do have mental health issues? As a former Medical Professional, I strongly suggest you seek professional help with your anti UKIP obsession!

  13. Xaider

    Your entire comment was composed of deceiving texts and selective conveyance of pure propaganda.

    Grow up.

  14. Bernard Fox

    Read the Newspapers lately? watched the TV news? many not just a few, Labour and Tory officials all being dishonest or paedophiles? In court on charges but never suspended from their parties? Yes UKIP has its own few idiots but at least we are rooting them out unlike the other parties who cover-up crimes and dishonest behaviour? In fact not only do they seem to condone it but encourage it by their leaders actions against them! Oh just for the record Labour are Left Tories are now far right and much more right wing than UKIP and that’s official so that means that UKIP is in the middle Richard Head – Guest!

  15. beta

    People who cross the borders ILLEGALLY are CRIMINALS – by the sole fact they are here, though they shouldn’t, because they never applied for the legal migration. I have absolutely NOTHING against the legal immigrants – but the ILLEGALS should have NO RIGHTS, since they broke OUR rights and laws at the very beginning. They shold be send where they are from, we are ABSOLUTELY NOT responsible for their fate or future.

  16. beta

    Why should British government care about the foreign people who COMMIT CRIME by ILLEGALLY coming to Britain’s land, ILLEGALLY crossing Britain’s borders, and ILLEGALLY requesting anything?? The law should be relentless and merciless towards such types: they should be sent back to their countries or other countries that want to accept them, period. Why should Britain care for the fate, future and conditions of foreign criminals who should not be here?

  17. alanbstardmp

    australia treats immigrants too well, that is the problem. Refugees are free to go home. don’t have to stay in detention

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