Australia promised to crack down on migration scams targeting Indian students in the country with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith saying the government will tighten regulation on migration agents.
Smith said the scams about ripping off foreign students would be looked into by immigration and education authorities and dealt with “no tolerance”.
Speaking from Singapore,Smith told ABC channel “Of course it’s very concerning on both fronts.”
“On the migration front,when we were in Opposition we did express significant concerns about the regulation of migration agents,and as a consequence we’ve recently seen a migration regulatory authority come into existence to regulate that industry better,” Smith said.
“But any of these abuses,of course,we won’t tolerate and don’t tolerate. And the cracking down,so far as the migration agents’ regulatory arrangements are concerned,will assist in that process,” he said.
On Monday night,ABC’s ‘Four Corners’ programme reported that hundreds of private colleges in Australia were offering courses such as hairdressing and cooking,luring Indian students with false promises of permanent residency in the country.
The programme said migration agents told the reporter she could buy a fake English language certificate needed to gain residency for between USD 2,400-4,100.
The expose were the latest to hit Australia’s USD 14.2 billion international student sector — the nation’s third largest export earner — after a series of violent attacks on Indian students in cities like Melbourne and Sydney.
Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard condemned the attack on an Indian-born journalist who had exposed the scam while working undercover for the ‘Four Corners’ programme.
“Any attack like that which has been reported is cowardly and completely abhorrent,” Gillard said. Migration Institute of Australia also today strongly urged the government to improve existing regulation framework which it said were not good enough.
Maurene Horder,MIA CEO,in a statement said “the big issue facing us at the moment isn’t the people that are currently being regulated,but what we haven’t got is any real action when someone steps outside of the regulatory framework and is acting illegally.”
“And I think successive governments have been tardy in policing the lack of compliance in the migration advice field. Unfortunately,hearing reports about international students and visa applicants falling prey to unscrupulous operators is not a new issue,” Horder said.
In May 2008,MIA that reported 60 rogue agents from Melbourne,Sydney and Brisbane to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship,stated that it is not been informed about any of these (agents) were prosecuted.
Any unethical or illegal behaviour by registered migration agents is not tolerated by the institute and should be cracked down on by the Department,Horder said.
“We’ve been asking government to sort out problems with education agents and illegal or unscrupulous operators for an extended period of time. The announcement that education agents will have a register is a first step but doesn’t go far enough in reforming the sector,” she said.
A recent independent report,entitled ‘Changing Together’,confirms the nature of some of the problems which affects the profession ¿ that the bad behaviour of a minority of unscrupulous operators’ impacts negatively on the entire migration advice profession.
“Following the report’s release,the MIA is acting on a comprehensive range of reforms to strengthen standards and ethics of migration agents,” she said.