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Lives in Limbo

A new Migrant Workers Centre survey of over 700 temporary visa holders shows the urgent need for more pathways to permanent residency.

The findings, which also draw upon over 50 in depth interviews, are presented in the new report Lives in Limbo: The Experiences of Migrant Workers Navigating Australia’s Unsettling Migration System and reveal a broken migration system that sets workers up for exploitation and perpetual uncertainty.

Key findings show:

  • 65% of temporary visa holders have experienced wage theft and 1-in-4 have additionally experienced other forms of labour exploitation
  • Extremely high levels of stress, the highest being amongst those on employer sponsored visas
  • A link between workplace exploitation and temporary visa status whereby 91% of workers surveyed who experienced wage theft arrived on a visa with no pathway to permanent residency
  • On average, it takes workers 5.1 years to acquire PR with the longest wait time being 13 years
  • Loopholes in visa programs such as employer sponsored visas which leave workers vulnerable to exploitative bosses and visa scams, and often tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

The Government constantly changes the rules of the game to create a perpetually temporary class of workers who are keeping our economy going, but with limited workplace protections and social safety nets. 



The Migrant Workers Centre urgently calls on the Government to:

1. Increase the proportion of permanent visas issuance within the migration system

2. Introduce a maximum waiting time to visa processing

3. Value migrant workers' contributions to Australian society

4. Adjust and monitor employer sponsorship programs to protect against labour exploitation and visa system manipulation

5. Enable onshore migrant workers to replace employer sponsorship with state/territory sponsorship for permanent residency

6. Provide settlement assistance in collaboration with local communities

7. Give locally educated migrant workers protection of workplace rights and a fair chance to permanent residency

8. Provide information about workplace rights

9. Improve access to justice, compensation, and treatment

10. Protect whistle-blowers



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