Australia announces cut in migration intake

The Australian government has announced plans to cut its migration intake by half over the next two years, aiming to reduce annual arrivals to 250,000 by June 2025, aligning with pre-pandemic levels. The move is part of a broader 10-year immigration strategy to address perceived issues in the country’s immigration system, which has faced criticism for being complex, slow, and inefficient.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil, in a media briefing on Monday, characterized the existing immigration system as “broken” and unveiled measures to tighten visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers. The government intends to address housing and infrastructure challenges exacerbated by record-level migration while acknowledging the ongoing need for skilled workers.

An earlier review this year identified the immigration system as “badly broken” and called for major reform. Despite a record 510,000 arrivals in the year leading up to June 2023, the government aims to “bring numbers back under control” by reducing the migration intake by approximately 50%.

The new measures include stricter English-language requirements for international students and increased scrutiny for those applying for a second visa, requiring them to demonstrate how further study aligns with academic or career goals. There are also improvements to visa pathways for migrants with specialized skills, such as tech workers or care professionals, offering better prospects for permanent residency.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil emphasized that these policies aim to attract needed workers and reduce the risk of exploitation for those studying and working in Australia. However, the opposition, represented by migration spokesman Dan Tehan, criticized the government for being slow to adjust migration policies post-pandemic.

Australia’s Labor government, in power since last year, has faced declining popularity and pressure to address the housing crisis. While some argue for a temporary reduction in migration to alleviate housing issues, others, including the Business Council of Australia, contend that migrants are unfairly targeted, and the root causes lie in inadequate investment in affordable housing and longstanding housing policy shortcomings.

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