Archive from May, 2018

No security at Home Affairs in Cape Town

25 May 2018 – Groundup

Refugees and asylum seekers say that the Home Affairs offices on the Foreshore in Cape Town are more chaotic than ever since security vanished from the facility.
It is not unusual for refugees to experience poor service and mistreatment and to queue from 5am‚ but in the past week they say things have become even worse.
Asylum seekers come to renew their papers; refugees arrive to collect IDs‚ apply for passports and register children and relatives. But in the absence of security to show people which queue to join‚ people are left confused. There is also no one to maintain order in the queues or to prioritise mothers with babies and small children.
On Wednesday‚ GroundUp found no security at the main entrance. Usually security guards screen people on arrival. Inside the gate‚ there were two officials collecting documents. Outside the offices‚ officials would appear from time to time and collect documents handed to them over the perimeter fence or call out the names of people whose files they had. Some people said they did not know what queue they were standing in.
An Ethiopian man‚ who preferred not to be named‚ had flown from Johannesburg on Tuesday night and queued on Wednesday to extend his refugee status. He was told at 10am to return on Thursday.
But Home Affairs told GroundUp: “The status renewal schedule is aligned to the schedule for available interpreters (Ethiopians are on Wednesday). However‚ if there is proof of travelling the applicants are prioritised.”
“The problem with this place is that no one listens … No one cares or gives a damn‚” said the man. “You are not given a chance to raise your issues or explain your circumstances. Besides losing my seat [for the return flight] today‚ I have to pay for accommodation and it’s not guaranteed that if I come again tomorrow I will be served.”
He also said he was missing work and would not be paid.
A number of parents told GroundUp their children were missing school.
“My two children‚ who are doing grade four and eight‚ have missed three days of school‚” a mother said. “It is crucial that they be in school because they are doing revision in preparation for mid-year examinations. These people just don’t care. When I showed him [the official] my paper‚ he just pushed it back without even looking at it.
“For three days I didn’t work. Next week it’s month end. I need to pay school fees and rent. I hope today they will help me. I do have a refugee status that I renew every four years‚” she said.
Pastor Belesi from the Democratic Republic of Congo said he had applied for his ID last year in December and was told he should follow up after three months. He said last week he forced himself inside the building. He was told the official who deals with IDs was away for the whole week and he should return next week.
“So today I am here since 6am‚ but I do not see myself getting any service‚” said Belesi. “I am just waiting. Nobody is telling me anything. I don’t know what to do; should I stay‚ go or wait? I missed the 10am church meeting and the congregation is still waiting for me.”
Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola responded to a number of queries but ignored GroundUp’s question about the security guard situation.

Home Affairs thankful Australia’s diversity allows for improved facial recognition

ZD Net – 22 May 2018
Armed with multiple algorithms and training images based on a multicultural society, Home Affairs believes it gets a bronze medal in facial recognition.
When Australia’s Department of Home Affairs is training its facial recognition systems, it is using multiple algorithms and a diverse collection of imagery to avoid any bias in the system.
“We tune our algorithms all the time against a wide-ranging algorithm, we are very fortunate in Australia that we are a multicultural society, we get people coming in and out of the country from various nationalities,” Acting Deputy Secretary of Intelligence and Capability at the department Joe Franzi told Senate Estimates on Tuesday.
“We don’t use just one algorithm, we use a number of algorithms.”
Franzi said the size of the data set used to train the system was key to avoiding bias, and cited the case of an unnamed Chinese system that performed well against Asian faces but struggled with people of other races.
Based on working with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, Franzi claimed Home Affairs’ algorithms are in the top three.
Responding to figures from South Wales Police that showed its NEC facial recognition system had produced a high number of false positives at the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final, Franzi said many systems struggle with situations like stadiums and crowded events.
“Some of these mass surveillance-type facial recognition solutions are very much in the development phase — but people get starry eyed and they buy them,” he said.
“They perform really well when you go to the conference … and it works really well in a controlled environment, but once you actually move into a real world environment … then you get all the issues around different lighting, angles of faces, where are cameras, do people have hats on, glasses on, [hoodies] — a whole range of things.”
Home Affairs has been using facial recognition in a Canberra trial to allow passengers to walk through the terminal from their flight without producing their passport.
“For the numbers of people coming through our airports, I want them to walk seamlessly down — off the A380 — and, in time, and we’re not far off this, with facial recognition on the move, people’s passports will stay in their pocket,” Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said in February.
The department is also using facial recognition in its face-matching system that will link up databases of photos stored in various federal and state agencies.
Last month, Home Affairs dismissed calls for the system to require a warrant to access, stating the requirement would “effectively prevent government agencies from using the services, or obtaining the benefits of the services”.
“Obtaining a warrant is a resource-intensive process, both for the applicant agency and for the issuing authority hearing the application,” Home Affairs wrote.
“The time involved in preparing, reviewing, and granting a warrant application to use services would significantly delay, and in some circumstances undermine, law-enforcement and national security investigations; impede operational activity, including the prevention of criminal acts; and divert resources from investigations.”
Earlier this year, the department claimed that its “hub-and-spoke” topology for the face-matching service was helpful in preventing breaches, as well as describing a “moat” surrounding its gateways.
On Monday, the department revealed it had spent AU$5.5 million so far from its AU$10 million budget on integration work in creating the Dutton-led enforcement super ministry.
“There were some IT issues that were a function of the fact that government agencies are regrettably — and this is longstanding; it goes back 20 years — still on different networks,” departmental secretary Michael Pezzullo said.
“When you federate two systems, you’ve got to set up Citrix and other connection arrangements. That’s not particularly specific to Home Affairs; it happens whenever you have a MOG — a machinery-of-government change.”
Home Affairs thankful Australia’s diversity allows for improved facial recognition
ZD Net – 22 May 2018
Armed with multiple algorithms and training images based on a multicultural society, Home Affairs believes it gets a bronze medal in facial recognition.
When Australia’s Department of Home Affairs is training its facial recognition systems, it is using multiple algorithms and a diverse collection of imagery to avoid any bias in the system.
“We tune our algorithms all the time against a wide-ranging algorithm, we are very fortunate in Australia that we are a multicultural society, we get people coming in and out of the country from various nationalities,” Acting Deputy Secretary of Intelligence and Capability at the department Joe Franzi told Senate Estimates on Tuesday.
“We don’t use just one algorithm, we use a number of algorithms.”
Franzi said the size of the data set used to train the system was key to avoiding bias, and cited the case of an unnamed Chinese system that performed well against Asian faces but struggled with people of other races.
Based on working with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, Franzi claimed Home Affairs’ algorithms are in the top three.
Responding to figures from South Wales Police that showed its NEC facial recognition system had produced a high number of false positives at the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final, Franzi said many systems struggle with situations like stadiums and crowded events.
“Some of these mass surveillance-type facial recognition solutions are very much in the development phase — but people get starry eyed and they buy them,” he said.
“They perform really well when you go to the conference … and it works really well in a controlled environment, but once you actually move into a real world environment … then you get all the issues around different lighting, angles of faces, where are cameras, do people have hats on, glasses on, [hoodies] — a whole range of things.”
Home Affairs has been using facial recognition in a Canberra trial to allow passengers to walk through the terminal from their flight without producing their passport.
“For the numbers of people coming through our airports, I want them to walk seamlessly down — off the A380 — and, in time, and we’re not far off this, with facial recognition on the move, people’s passports will stay in their pocket,” Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said in February.
The department is also using facial recognition in its face-matching system that will link up databases of photos stored in various federal and state agencies.
Last month, Home Affairs dismissed calls for the system to require a warrant to access, stating the requirement would “effectively prevent government agencies from using the services, or obtaining the benefits of the services”.
“Obtaining a warrant is a resource-intensive process, both for the applicant agency and for the issuing authority hearing the application,” Home Affairs wrote.
“The time involved in preparing, reviewing, and granting a warrant application to use services would significantly delay, and in some circumstances undermine, law-enforcement and national security investigations; impede operational activity, including the prevention of criminal acts; and divert resources from investigations.”
Earlier this year, the department claimed that its “hub-and-spoke” topology for the face-matching service was helpful in preventing breaches, as well as describing a “moat” surrounding its gateways.
On Monday, the department revealed it had spent AU$5.5 million so far from its AU$10 million budget on integration work in creating the Dutton-led enforcement super ministry.
“There were some IT issues that were a function of the fact that government agencies are regrettably — and this is longstanding; it goes back 20 years — still on different networks,” departmental secretary Michael Pezzullo said.
“When you federate two systems, you’ve got to set up Citrix and other connection arrangements. That’s not particularly specific to Home Affairs; it happens whenever you have a MOG — a machinery-of-government change.”
Home Affairs thankful Australia’s diversity allows for improved facial recognition
ZD Net – 22 May 2018
Armed with multiple algorithms and training images based on a multicultural society, Home Affairs believes it gets a bronze medal in facial recognition.
When Australia’s Department of Home Affairs is training its facial recognition systems, it is using multiple algorithms and a diverse collection of imagery to avoid any bias in the system.
“We tune our algorithms all the time against a wide-ranging algorithm, we are very fortunate in Australia that we are a multicultural society, we get people coming in and out of the country from various nationalities,” Acting Deputy Secretary of Intelligence and Capability at the department Joe Franzi told Senate Estimates on Tuesday.
“We don’t use just one algorithm, we use a number of algorithms.”
Franzi said the size of the data set used to train the system was key to avoiding bias, and cited the case of an unnamed Chinese system that performed well against Asian faces but struggled with people of other races.
Based on working with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, Franzi claimed Home Affairs’ algorithms are in the top three.
Responding to figures from South Wales Police that showed its NEC facial recognition system had produced a high number of false positives at the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final, Franzi said many systems struggle with situations like stadiums and crowded events.
“Some of these mass surveillance-type facial recognition solutions are very much in the development phase — but people get starry eyed and they buy them,” he said.
“They perform really well when you go to the conference … and it works really well in a controlled environment, but once you actually move into a real world environment … then you get all the issues around different lighting, angles of faces, where are cameras, do people have hats on, glasses on, [hoodies] — a whole range of things.”
Home Affairs has been using facial recognition in a Canberra trial to allow passengers to walk through the terminal from their flight without producing their passport.
“For the numbers of people coming through our airports, I want them to walk seamlessly down — off the A380 — and, in time, and we’re not far off this, with facial recognition on the move, people’s passports will stay in their pocket,” Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said in February.
The department is also using facial recognition in its face-matching system that will link up databases of photos stored in various federal and state agencies.
Last month, Home Affairs dismissed calls for the system to require a warrant to access, stating the requirement would “effectively prevent government agencies from using the services, or obtaining the benefits of the services”.
“Obtaining a warrant is a resource-intensive process, both for the applicant agency and for the issuing authority hearing the application,” Home Affairs wrote.
“The time involved in preparing, reviewing, and granting a warrant application to use services would significantly delay, and in some circumstances undermine, law-enforcement and national security investigations; impede operational activity, including the prevention of criminal acts; and divert resources from investigations.”
Earlier this year, the department claimed that its “hub-and-spoke” topology for the face-matching service was helpful in preventing breaches, as well as describing a “moat” surrounding its gateways.
On Monday, the department revealed it had spent AU$5.5 million so far from its AU$10 million budget on integration work in creating the Dutton-led enforcement super ministry.
“There were some IT issues that were a function of the fact that government agencies are regrettably — and this is longstanding; it goes back 20 years — still on different networks,” departmental secretary Michael Pezzullo said.
“When you federate two systems, you’ve got to set up Citrix and other connection arrangements. That’s not particularly specific to Home Affairs; it happens whenever you have a MOG — a machinery-of-government change.”
Home Affairs thankful Australia’s diversity allows for improved facial recognition
ZD Net – 22 May 2018
Armed with multiple algorithms and training images based on a multicultural society, Home Affairs believes it gets a bronze medal in facial recognition.
When Australia’s Department of Home Affairs is training its facial recognition systems, it is using multiple algorithms and a diverse collection of imagery to avoid any bias in the system.
“We tune our algorithms all the time against a wide-ranging algorithm, we are very fortunate in Australia that we are a multicultural society, we get people coming in and out of the country from various nationalities,” Acting Deputy Secretary of Intelligence and Capability at the department Joe Franzi told Senate Estimates on Tuesday.
“We don’t use just one algorithm, we use a number of algorithms.”
Franzi said the size of the data set used to train the system was key to avoiding bias, and cited the case of an unnamed Chinese system that performed well against Asian faces but struggled with people of other races.
Based on working with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, Franzi claimed Home Affairs’ algorithms are in the top three.
Responding to figures from South Wales Police that showed its NEC facial recognition system had produced a high number of false positives at the 2017 UEFA Champions League Final, Franzi said many systems struggle with situations like stadiums and crowded events.
“Some of these mass surveillance-type facial recognition solutions are very much in the development phase — but people get starry eyed and they buy them,” he said.
“They perform really well when you go to the conference … and it works really well in a controlled environment, but once you actually move into a real world environment … then you get all the issues around different lighting, angles of faces, where are cameras, do people have hats on, glasses on, [hoodies] — a whole range of things.”
Home Affairs has been using facial recognition in a Canberra trial to allow passengers to walk through the terminal from their flight without producing their passport.
“For the numbers of people coming through our airports, I want them to walk seamlessly down — off the A380 — and, in time, and we’re not far off this, with facial recognition on the move, people’s passports will stay in their pocket,” Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said in February.
The department is also using facial recognition in its face-matching system that will link up databases of photos stored in various federal and state agencies.
Last month, Home Affairs dismissed calls for the system to require a warrant to access, stating the requirement would “effectively prevent government agencies from using the services, or obtaining the benefits of the services”.
“Obtaining a warrant is a resource-intensive process, both for the applicant agency and for the issuing authority hearing the application,” Home Affairs wrote.
“The time involved in preparing, reviewing, and granting a warrant application to use services would significantly delay, and in some circumstances undermine, law-enforcement and national security investigations; impede operational activity, including the prevention of criminal acts; and divert resources from investigations.”
Earlier this year, the department claimed that its “hub-and-spoke” topology for the face-matching service was helpful in preventing breaches, as well as describing a “moat” surrounding its gateways.
On Monday, the department revealed it had spent AU$5.5 million so far from its AU$10 million budget on integration work in creating the Dutton-led enforcement super ministry.
“There were some IT issues that were a function of the fact that government agencies are regrettably — and this is longstanding; it goes back 20 years — still on different networks,” departmental secretary Michael Pezzullo said.
“When you federate two systems, you’ve got to set up Citrix and other connection arrangements. That’s not particularly specific to Home Affairs; it happens whenever you have a MOG — a machinery-of-government change.”

Trade department starts SEZ marketing drive in China

23 May 2018 – Business Live
The road show is intended to give the government and implementers of the SEZ programme an opportunity to present value propositions to potential investors
The Department of Trade and Industry is busy with the processes of designating and marketing SA’s special economic zones (SEZ) in relation to local communities and potential Chinese investors.
Representatives from the Upington SEZ are this week leaving for China to seek investments. They are part of a South African delegation that will participate in an investment roadshow to Shanghai led by the Trade and Industry Deputy Minister Bulelani Magwanishe.
The CEO of the Free State Development Corporation, Ikhraam Osman, is also part of the delegation. He will market the potential of the Maluti-A-Phofung SEZ near Harrismith as a trans-shipment hub between Durban and Johannesburg.
The road show is intended to give representatives of the South African government and implementers of the SEZ programme the opportunity to present value propositions to potential investors.
Meanwhile, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has approved a recommendation from the SEZ advisory board to designate the Nkomazi SEZ in Mpumalanga.
Linked to Swaziland by two provincial roads and to Mozambique by railway and the main N4 national road, the zone will lead to “high impact” industrial development along the Maputo Corridor, Davies says.
“The designation of Nkomazi SEZ will not only give Mpumalanga an opportunity to process the agricultural produce — which [it] currently exports as primary produce — but will also enable skills and technology transfer, which are key to the improvement of agricultural productivity,” he says.
The zone will initially be established on 300ha of land made available by the Nkomazi Local Municipality and will mainly focus on the secondary and tertiary processing of agricultural products, situated within a 200km radius of a well-developed agricultural sector.
The targeted value-chain includes citrus and subtropical fruits, aromatic plants and herbs, ground and tree nuts, nutraceuticals (dietary supplements and food additives), meat processing, leather goods and agri-inputs such as fertiliser.
The Department of Trade and Industry will arrange a public hearing in the Nkomazi area within 30 days to allow the community to provide further inputs on the proposed development
This comes as the process of designating the Atlantis “green-tech” SEZ in the Western Cape will be completed within the next two months.

Home affairs is improving daily, not plotting darkly

Sunday Times – 27 May 2018
In “A parallel, shadow regime has hijacked control of SA’s borders” (May 20), Gary Eisenberg claims that “control of our borders was ultimately wrestled by the Department of Home Affairs from more than 18 state departments and parastatals, including Sars, by Gigaba’s championing of the Border Management Authority Bill”.
Minister Gigaba was not at home affairs when the National Assembly approved the bill in 2017 and referred it to the National Council of Provinces — that was former minister Hlengiwe Mkhize.
It is unthinkable that Eisenberg’s imaginary “complex” is busy hatching “a silent coup” in some quiet dark corner of the land, “seizing power from other departments” through a yet-to-be-established border management authority, for the use of top home affairs managers.
We are expected to believe with no proof shared that compliant applications are frequently rejected and appeals and ministerial exemption applications are stymied. The department maintains a high standard of professional ethics, provides services impartially, and strives for accountability and transparency.
The changes we have made, which Eisenberg ignored, benefit even foreign nationals, including developing a Trusted Traveller system for bona fide frequent travellers, providing biometric capability at four airports and six land ports and introducing a visa exemption for Russia that increased tourist travel from there by 51% in 2017, year on year.
This year we will simplify visa requirements for Chinese and Indian visitors and ease the entry of people with valid visas from countries such as the US and the UK.
Working closely with stakeholders, including the departments of tourism and transport, the Airports Company South Africa and the tourism industry, we will develop and implement a strategy to grow South Africa as an attractive and efficient transit hub and destination for tourists and businesspeople.
Mayihlome Tshwete, spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba
Tangled in red tape
Gary Eisenberg’s article on immigration mapped out the entanglement of the Department of Home Affairs in unaccountability.
The centralisation of decision-making was responsible for several multiple applications for citizenship by married couples, ending with only one of the partners being processed.
My wife knows and we have met others still trying — after more than eight years. The abolition of permanent residents’ permits, demoting them to visas, is the latest step in the capture of the borders. Tom Morgan, Cape Town
Israel and Gaza: it’s complicated
Ranjeni Munusamy, in “No long-term game plan in SA’s handling of Israel’s attack on Gaza” (May 20), makes some good points but is biased. Critics may well have differing opinions on Israel’s response to the Hamas-led attack on the border fence, but Israel did not attack Gaza.
If Hamas fighters had entered Israel and attacked citizens, the Israeli response would have led to many more deaths. I am aware of the total frustration of the Gazan people and I would really like them to have an independent state, but if border blockades are removed there will be a flood of arms brought into Gaza.
I don’t know what the solution is for the struggling Gazan people and the worried Israeli nation. It is certainly not Israel’s inflammatory settlement policies, nor Hamas terrorist attacks on Jews. Either way, I expect a publication like the Sunday Times to reflect all sides and allow readers to make up their own minds.
D Wolpert, Rivonia

A parallel, shadow regime has hijacked control of SA’s borders

20 May 2018 – Sunday Times
Malusi Gigaba’s Border Management Authority Bill would be a silent coup, seizing powers from other departments for the use of top home affairs managers
Contrary to common belief, South Africa’s borders constitute the most valuable of all state assets on the country’s balance sheet. Their capture is tantamount to the control of South Africa’s sovereignty.
All immigration systems aim to protect the physical and legal parameters that define a country’s sovereignty. In South Africa’s case, the extent to which our borders are modulated to enable the influx of foreigners is controlled by the Department of Home Affairs, with executive authority vested in Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba.
It is increasingly clear that the department’s managerial “complex” — which might be said to extend from the minister to an established group, including director-general Mkuseli Apleni, deputy director-general Jackson McKay, and the chief directors of its directorates, such as the immigration inspectorate, counter-corruption and legal services — does not operate solely within the ordinary legislative and constitutional framework. It appears to operate also in a parallel, shadow decision-making realm.
The home affairs complex has captured South Africa’s borders in a quiet coup that has escaped the scrutiny of the public protector and observers.
Control of our borders was ultimately wrested by the Department of Home Affairs from more than 18 state departments and parastatals, including SARS, by Gigaba’s championing of the Border Management Authority Bill. When the bill was debated in parliament in May 2017, DA spokesman on home affairs Haniff Hoosen called it “one of the worst pieces of legislation that has come before the house”, and an attempt to create yet another entity that could be captured by the greedy and corrupt in power.
The department’s legislative mandate gives it responsibility for little more than passport control at ports of entry. Should the Border Management Authority Bill be passed by the National Council of Provinces this year, it will place a monopolistic control of all border-related matters — including defence, policing, customs revenue collections and VAT rebates, and the movement of all goods and the 40 million people entering and exiting the country — in the hands of home affairs.
Alongside the growth of a shadow state within the constitutional democratic structure, a second tier of our borders’ modulation has taken place, outside of the mundane implementation of immigration legislation. This has been achieved by the home affairs complex and its “fixers” and “enforcers” embedded in the home affairs bureaucracy.
While various home affairs ministers — including Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Gigaba — have been publicly (and loudly) preoccupied with the eradication of corruption from the ranks of the department and civil society, this was nothing but a ruse to divert attention from the creation of a shadow decision-making authority within the department.
The extraordinary stagnancy with which home affairs management pursues corruption cases brought to its attention reveals that this is nothing more than a veiled reluctance to enforce its “zero-tolerance” policy.
The first phase of the capture of our borders and immigration system began with Dlamini-Zuma’s deployment of cadres as enforcers of a restrictive immigration policy. In 2010, with the centralisation of decision-making on all immigration and citizenship applications, a new approach to immigration control was predicated on the fabricated scourge of human trafficking. This morphed into the enactment of stringent immigration legislation in 2014, effectively closing our borders to foreigners.
The pattern of gross inefficiency and administrative bungling in home affairs’s handling of citizenship and immigration applications is inextricable from the “designed chaos” that has been widely observed. Compliant applications are frequently rejected; appeals and ministerial exemption applications are stymied by red tape to the extent that corruption often seems the only remedy for those desperate enough.
The system of immigration administration now predicates itself on a dangerous duality of standards of administrative justice while the home affairs complex remains entrenched. This complex has artificially manipulated policies, procedures and access to efficient decision-making for purposes other than preserving the integrity of the legislative apparatus. The closure of the borders to everyone creates an opportunity to modulate their opening to those willing to pay a higher price.
One such example is the politically preferential treatment granted to a senior member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Leila Khaled, a “prohibited” person in terms of our immigration legislation. Gigaba himself went to the airport as part of her welcoming committee. The only way Khaled could have lawfully entered South Africa was for her prohibition to be lifted by the director-general with “good cause”. Her entry was facilitated by the home affairs complex without any public explanation.
Later that year, in June 2015 and against a court order, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir escaped an international arrest warrant by departing from South Africa through Air Force Base Waterkloof. His passport was not examined by immigration officers. This is an indisputable case of political rent-seeking at the behest of the executive authority, with the full cooperation of a willing complex of officials.
If this is the benchmark for administrative justice, how can ordinary people — including foreigners subject to the Immigration Act — be held to a different standard? How can a regime of law exist with integrity when access to administrative justice is only possible through a shadow decision-making authority outside of the rule of law?
This principle cannot be more poignantly articulated than in the celebrated words of US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: “If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”

Bridging visa surge includes 37,000 mystery holders and swamps permanent migration cuts

Bridging visa surge includes 37,000 mystery holders and swamps permanent migration cuts
23 May 2018 – ABC Net
Massive growth in Australia’s ballooning temporary migration is dwarfing the Government’s cuts to the permanent intake.
Key points:
• An extra 40,000 people are in Australia on bridging visas compared to a year ago
• The Government has revealed it plans to cut the permanent intake by up to 20,000 this year
• More than 2.2 million temporary visa holders are currently in Australia, a record high
The number of people who hold bridging visas — the same kind of visa given to the Commonwealth Games athletes who are seeking asylum — has hit a historic high.
At the end of March, 195,000 people with bridging visas were in Australia, including more than 37,000 whose nationality was not specified.
That is up more than 40,000 on a year ago, and close to 90,000 since 2014, according to official Department of Home Affairs figures.
It has pushed the number of people in Australia on temporary visas to more than 2.2 million — again, a record high.
Bridging visas are usually given to migrants whose substantive applications are currently being processed.
Jonathan Granger, director of Granger Australia and a former national president of the Migration Institute of Australia, described the migration program as “chaotic”.
“The resources available to the department are limited every year by Government, and yet Government rolls out reform agendas that are not well thought through, that require transitional arrangements and require multiple layers of processing against regulations in the same visa areas,” he said.
“The result of those things is significant delays.”
Attempt to cut migration
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the Government was planning on cutting the permanent migration intake from its traditional level of 190,000 per year, down to approximately 170,000 this year.
But that number is dwarfed by the scale of the temporary visa program.
In the past year an additional 150,000 visitors are in Australia on temporary visas, including 33,000 more foreign students.
Many of these — such as students, backpackers and many bridging visa holders — have extensive work rights.
Mr Granger believes the spike in bridging visas was likely to be caused by a combination of factors, including more applications due to major program changes and cutbacks in resources at the department.
The Government has rolled out an overhaul of both temporary and permanent migration programs in the past year.
Mr Granger said processing times in major visa streams including the temporary skill shortage (formerly code 457), employer-nominated scheme and skilled independent visas had all grown in recent years.
A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said processing times were driven by a range of factors including:
• the volume of applications received,
• completeness of the application,
• how promptly applicants respond to any requests from the department, and
• the complexity of assessments in relation to health, character and national security requirements.
“The department monitors feedback, trends, and fluctuating processing times each month to identify issues in specific caseloads, opportunities for continuous business process improvement and client service efficiencies,” they told the ABC.
The mystery 37,000
The boom in bridging visas has been driven by a mysterious component of 37,000 visa holders for whom the Department of Home Affairs will not reveal their nationality.
The Department of Home Affairs declined to provide more explanation about this group.
Mr Granger said the program changes and lack of resources meant there were growing numbers of visa refusals that ended up at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
“This results in a significant rise of unwarranted refusals, and transfers time delays and costs over to the Appeals Tribunal,” he said.
“The Appeals Tribunal is wasting resources on expensive tribunal members deciding on simple visa matters.”
The average processing time at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for temporary work visas is 381 days over the past six months, up from 286 for the corresponding period a year ago.
Wayne Parcell, immigration partner at EY, said it was impossible to determine the “root cause” of the increase in bridging visas without more information.
“A surge in application rates in different visa categories, and looking at visa refusal numbers in different categories, can just as much be a reason for the increase as an increase in processing times across a range of visa categories,” he said.
Mr Parcell said many of his clients already on bridging visas were forced to request separate bridging visas if they needed to travel — for example for business or family visits — creating additional administrative load on the department.
“A reduction in the number of bridging visas is possible if a multiple entry travel facility was granted to all applicants who are legitimately awaiting a visa decision in Australia,” he said.
“This would decrease administrative effort for the Department of Home Affairs and improve the service experience for clients.”

Cryptojacking threatens cryptocurrency safety, security and value

Financial Institutions are quick to implement digital platforms without accompanying cyber security as part of their focus.
In addition to malware, a newer and bigger threat to the safety, security and value of cryptocurrencies has emerged—in-browser Cryptojacking that hackers use to target the newer less-well known currencies such as Monero, Coinhive and Zcash—low-profile cryptocurrencies, that ironically are the currencies-of-choice among threat actors.
A recent cryptojacking campaign infected over half-a-million victims in just three days.
According to Jeremy Samide, CEO of Stealthcare, an international cybersecurity and threat assessment firm based in the US and Canada, “In-browser cryptojacking works off JavaScripts, which are installed on the most popular websites and readily available to anyone with criminal intent. With JavaScript the hacker uses the victim’s own browser to mine, or rather ‘cryptomine,’ for transactions, secretly diverting small amounts of currency at a time to his own account where it can be turned into cash.”
Industry analysts recognize Stealthcare for changing cybersecurity from defense to a more aggressive posture that relies on early warning, threat assessment, AI and human intelligence. Early on, Stealthcare’s proprietary platform Zero Day Live, detected a significant upward trend in cryptomining and cryptojacking, warned its clients of the threat and provided countermeasures.
“This is criminal behavior plain and simple. Wrongdoers directly attack the weakest link—the consumers who rely on cryptocurrency exchanges and their digital wallets for their transactions. They lure their victims in through elaborate phishing campaigns, drive-by downloads, and other subterfuges,” says Samide, adding, “The explosion of initial coin offerings (ICO) and cryptocurrency exchanges proliferating without adequate security, gave hackers the opening they needed to attack wallets and apps, siphoning off cryptocurrency from these exchanges.”
Bitcoin and Ethereum were targets when they first emerged. But as they become more mainstream, they are also being scrutinized by sovereign governments looking to apply transparency requirements on their transactions. “These legacy cryptocurrencies now appear to be less attractive as hackers target emerging and more privately-focused currencies such as Coinhive along with Monero and Zcash,” according to Samide.
Cryptomining Malware Threats
In addition to the in-browser JavaScript threat, cyber criminals are still transforming older malware to include cryptomining and cryptojacking capabilities. In doing so they are creating polymorphic strains of new attacks. Explains Samide, “Some of these cryptojacking campaigns are still using older EternalBlue exploits, which were stolen by Shadow Brokers and used to create the ransomwareWannaCrythat wreaked havoc on the National Health Services hospitals in England and Scotland as well as Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK, FedEx, Spain’s Telefonica and the Deutsche Bahn.”
Cryptomining malware threats today are becoming three dimensional, having the ability to circumvent antivirus applications by dropping in and launching malicious payloads that can shut down antivirus processes to evade further detection. As their malware proliferates through various attack vectors, their illicit mining capabilities continue to grow exponentially, stealing hundreds and thousands of dollars over time.
Samide insists, “Playing defense is no longer adequate. When we developed Zero Day Live, it became the world’s first complete cyber threat intelligence aggregation platform to spot emerging trends, uncover actionable information, and report on high-value intelligence that allows companies to respond quickly to impending threats.” Stealthcare researchers and technical staff also provide ongoing assistance to Zero Day Live clients that includes human threat assessment and, if need be, disaster recovery and new tactics to thwart future attacks.
The Gartner Research Report for Security Leaders, recognized Stealthcare’s Threat Intelligence platform, and stated that many vendors can provide access to information; fewer provide truly anticipatory content based on customized intelligence.
The Future of Cryptocurrency
“Looking to the future,” Samide says, “Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) will continue to pop up. But to maintain their legitimacy, cryptocurrencies will have to conform to government regulations, which will transform many of them into more widely accepted digital currencies to be used routinely in everyday commerce.”
In addition to cryptocurrency warnings and defenses, as well as alerting its clients of the Atlanta ransomware attack, Stealthcare predicted the evolution and growing sophistication of malware or Evoware, which became a reality in 2016 and includes new self-propagating ransomware mutations.

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