Friday 22 February 2019

Irish workers caught in alleged visa fraud in Australia

Irish workers in Australia
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Irish workers are said to have been caught up in alleged visa fraud in Australia.

Immigration investigators have carried out a series of raids on a company working on major Australian mining and infrastructure projects.

Documents and materials were seized during searches at the offices of Murphy Pipe & Civil (MPC), the Sydney Morning Herald has reported.

The investigation is said to be part of one of the nation's biggest inquiries into working visa fraud.

The Sydney Morning Herald said the firm has allegedly assisted dozens of Irish workers fraudulently obtain 457 temporary skilled and other visas to work on key national projects, including the multi-billion dollar Queensland Curtis Liquefied Natural Gas project and Western Australia's Sino Iron project.

Among the alleged examples of migration fraud by MPC is the company's role in continuing to sponsor a female Irish worker even though she had left the company, to help her get permanent residency.

In another case, an unskilled Irish labourer submitted a handwritten resume only to have it typed up and rewritten. He was then employed on a 457 visa as a "project administrator".

It is understand the probe was launched in response to reports in Fairfax Media last year about the failure of the immigration department to investigate wide-scale visa rorting on the giant projects and in a range of other sectors.

The reports also sparked fresh debate about the use of overseas workers to meet labour shortages, which the business lobby says is vital.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney said the action against MPC highlighted the need for reform of the visa system.

"Unions have always had concerns that employers are abusing the 457 visa program to bring in cheaper labour from overseas. Cracking down on bad employers is just a band aid solution when in fact the whole 457 visa system needs to be fixed," Ms Kearney told the paper.

"A full Senate Inquiry into the temporary visa workforce is the only way to stop foreign workers from being exploited and to make sure employers are genuinely trying to recruit Australian workers before looking overseas."

Meanwhile the chief executive of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Roman Quadvlieg, told Fairfax Media a new investigations division was being created to target "entities seeking to commit visa fraud here in Australia".

Immigration investigators are said to have recently interviewed at least five whistleblowers who have worked for MPC over allegations dozens of overseas workers employed by MPC may have lied about their qualifications or job role in order to get a skilled migration visa.

A spokesman for MPC told the Sydney Morning Post the recent raids on its premises by immigration investigators were routine and the firm "has never intentionally committed a breach of immigration laws."

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