The combination of tougher border controls and a determination to only take the best candidates has crashed Australia’s migrant numbers to a 10-year low.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the annual intake of permanent migrants fell by 20,000 last year to 162,000 on the back of a fall in both skilled and family visas.
This was the lowest in a decade and attributable to tighter vetting procedures, AFP reports, with dishonest applications in the government’s crosshairs.
“We’re making sure that people who do become part of our Australian family are coming here to work, not to lead a life on welfare,” he told reporters in the Queensland state capital Brisbane.
“If you have a robust migration program like we have, and you are assured of the entrants coming in through the programme, that they are going to be productive, that they are going to work hard, they aren’t going to lead a life on welfare … you will see increased economic benefit.”
Australia has long had amongst the toughest border controls in the world.
They are built on Operation Sovereign Borders, introduced by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2013, which sees smuggler-boats intercepted at sea and migrants either returned to where they came from or taken to offshore processing centres.
Even those found to be genuine refugees are barred from Australia if they try and cross the border illegally.
The United Nations and aid groups have consistently slammed Canberra’s tough policy of engagement with illegal arrivals.
Mr. Dutton defended the policy as a deterrent against people-smugglers saying Australia will only give refuge to those seeking asylum through legitimate channels.
“Last year we had the biggest offshore intake (of refugees) into our country that we’ve seen in decades,” he said. “We did that because we’ve secured our borders.”
Australia’s humanitarian intake — which it excludes from its permanent migration count — was close to 22,000 for its 2016-17 programme, which included a special assistance provision for 8,200 people affected by conflict in Syria and Iraq.
As Breitbart News reported, last year Australia announced plans to tighten its citizenship rules to require higher English language skills, longer residency and evidence of integration through consistent employment.
It is also making migrants wait longer before they can access any government benefits or assistance after arrival while securing the country’s borders.