A new survey of over 1,000 Australians found that 78 per cent of respondents believe those who are living and working here on temporary visas “should have stability so that they can plan for the life they want”.
An overwhelming majority of Australians support a pathway to permanent residency for migrants who have lived and worked in the country for several years, new research has found.
The survey of 1,095 Australians, commissioned by the Human Rights Law Centre, found that 78 per cent of respondents believe those who are living and working here on temporary visas “should have stability so that they can plan for the life they want”.
It follows a report conducted by the Migrant Workers Centre last year, which uncovered a strong connection between workplace exploitation and temporary visa status, and argued the need for more pathways to permanent residency. https://d59dd66f47a47c108de78c8fdd79c0f8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.htmlAdvertisementREAD MORE‘Living in limbo’: Exploitation, wage theft rife for temporary visa holders, report says
The recent survey, conducted in December, found that 58 per cent of respondents believe migrants help to fill skill shortages for particular jobs, and 33 per cent believe they work in lower-paid jobs that Australians wouldn’t want to do.
Of those surveyed, 54 per cent believe migrants bring cultural diversity and 24 per cent believe they counteract Australia’s ageing population.
Seventy-nine per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “If migrants have been living and working in Australia, then there should be a pathway to permanent residency”.
More than half of respondents (55 per cent) also agreed with the statement: “Migrants should have the ability to plan for their future here no matter what type of visa they hold”.
David Burke, legal director of the Human Rights Law Centre, said everyone should have the chance to plan for the life they want.
“But the federal government’s visa system is keeping people in limbo and often unable to reunite with their family even when they have lived and worked here for years,” he said.
“These results show that people clearly recognise the injustice of policies that are leaving their neighbours, colleagues and friends stuck in uncertainty simply because of the visa they hold.”READ MORE‘Drowning below the surface’: Migrant communities disproportionately impacted by effects of COVID-19
Matt Kunkel, chief executive of the Migrant Workers Centre, said Australia’s migration system currently relies heavily on temporary visas.
“What we are really missing out on is an opportunity to provide migrants with the stability to plan for the future, and providing them a permanent form of visa that allows them to settle down and build community with the rest of us,” he told SBS News.
“What we have seen with these temporary visas is really difficult circumstances for migrant workers in the workplace, but also a huge psychological toll of being permanently temporary – having to move from one temporary visa to another without the stability of settling down.”
He said the advantages for a system that allows people to come to Australia on a temporary basis is “one-sided” and leads to difficult outcomes for those looking to settle.
Last November, the Migrant Workers Centre’s ‘Living in Limbo’ report of over 700 temporary visa holders found 65 per cent of those had experienced wage theft and one in four had confronted other forms of labour exploitation.
It found of the workers surveyed, 91 per cent who experienced wage theft arrived on a visa with no pathway to permanent residency.
“What this is showing us is these temporary visas are a real challenge, because where workers have permanent residency rights, or where they have a pathway to becoming a permanent resident, we are seeing less of these types of workplace abuses,” Mr Kunkel said on Wednesday.
“We need a rethink of our migration system that returns permanent migration to its core and allows migrant workers that are coming to this country to plan for the future and to have a genuine pathway to settle down and build communities with the rest of us.”
Migration to Australia has fallen starkly since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic due to widespread travel bans and border closures, but it is expected to bounce back this year.
Mr Burke said two years of disruption to the country’s migration program due to the pandemic leaves Australia with an opportunity to “reset our approach to immigration”.
“Our political leaders should take steps to ensure this system reflects the values of the community by allowing migrants and refugees living in Australia to have a stable future,” he said.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has been contacted for comment.
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