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The Migrant Workers Centre welcomes a proposed increase in permanent migration numbers and the emerging consensus that improving pathways to permanent migration is an essential element in the nation’s economic and social recovery from COVID-19.

Just increasing the number of permanent migration places will not be enough to overcome Australia’s jobs and skills issues. Australia’s reputation has been diminished by its inaction in the face of systemic workplace abuse and exploitation of migrant workers.

Our Lives in Limbo report outlined the complex barriers that workers face within a migration system and an economy which has become too reliant on temporary forms of migration. It showed a broken system, abused by bad employers who seek to take advantage of restricted work rights and narrow pathways to the certainty and security permanent residency brings.

A shift to permanent migration must be accompanied by fairer visa processes and stronger protections for all migrants, including:

  • Whistle-blower protections for migrant workers who report wage theft or workplace exploitation, discrimination and harassment
  • Improving labour mobility for skilled migrants, allowing them to leave bad employers for those who will treat and pay them properly
  • Ensuring onshore visa applicants are prioritised and processed quickly
  • Extending the Fair Entitlements Guarantee to all workers
  • Providing work-rights to Bridging Visa E holders and permanent security to those languishing on SHEVs and TPVs

Quotes attributable to Matt Kunkel CEO Migrant Workers Centre

“For too long, Australia’s temporary migration system has condemned migrants to living in limbo, in an endless cycle of temporary visas with limited workplace protections.

“All workers must feel confident to raise issues of workplace exploitation. Whistle-blower protections are essential to ensure migrants are not forced to choose between defending their workplace rights and their ability to remain in the country.

“Providing more people with a pathway to permanence will lead to immense benefits to all workers in Australia.

“Our migration system is more than just adjusting intake numbers. We must centre and support the people coming to our shores and provide the certainty to build their lives and be full partners in our communities.”

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