Australia’s immigration policies, including free flights home for people who overstay their visa, have contributed to a rise of Malaysians rorting the local visa system, according to the Malaysian Government. Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya told Malaysia’s Parliament on Tuesday that Malaysians received “light punishment” for breaching visa conditions in Australia, given they were flown back without being charged for the flight.
Mr Yahya said Malaysians were drawn to Australia due to higher wages, the low cost of applying for a protection visa and the “world-class” education system — and not because they were being persecuted at home.
“The action of Malaysians in applying for protection visas on the pretext that their lives are in danger if they continue to stay in Malaysia is seen as an excuse to stay longer in the country,” he said.
The trend of Malaysians arriving in Australia then applying for a protection visa has been increasing.
About 1,400 protection visa lodgements came from Malaysians while they were in Australia in 2014-15. By last year, annual lodgements had grown to 9,300.
‘A sovereign, orderly immigration system’
Countering the criticism, Immigration Minister David Coleman said less than 0.25 per cent of people who come to Australia on temporary visas apply for protection.
“The vast majority of those applicants are refused — 95 per cent last year. Unsuccessful applicants are required to return home,” he said.
“This Government has a strong record on protecting our borders and maintaining a sovereign, orderly immigration system.”
The Malaysian High Commission did not respond to requests for comment.
At the end of 2018, of approximately 10,000 electronic visa holders who had overstayed their visa, three quarters were from Malaysia.
Jason Wood, the new Minister for Multicultural Affairs, speaking in February before he took on that role, said the Malaysian visitors were making a bid to work around existing visa laws.
“This represents an orchestrated scam that provides protection visa applicants the right to work in Australia until their claims are finalised.”
A parliamentary committee, which Mr Wood chaired in February, recommended that electronic visa holders who lodged a protection visa application be “fast-tracked” and have limited rights to appeal.
The Government is yet to respond to those recommendations.
Last week, leading UK politician and prime minister aspirant Boris Johnson praised Australia’s points-based immigration system and US President Donald Trump tweeted his admiration of Australia’s border policies.