Australian citizenship approvals plunge to 15-year low

Australian citizenship approvals plunge to 15-year low
15 November 2018 – SBS

While Australian citizenship approvals have fallen to the lowest level since 2002-03, the number of citizenship applications awaiting processing is at a record high with migrants waiting longer than ever before to pledge their allegiance to Australia.

Australian citizenship conferrals have plunged to a 15-year low as the backlog of applications yet to be processed mounts to a record high, causing longer waiting time for migrants wanting to pledge allegiance to Australia.
In 2017-18 the number of people who were conferred with Australian citizenship fell to 80,562 – a level not seen since 2002-03 when just over 79,000 people received citizenship by conferral.
It comes as the Federal Government is already facing criticism for citizenship application backlogs mounting to over 240,000, making applicants to wait 17-19 months, some even longer.
The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed to SBS Punjabi that 244,765 citizenship applications were awaiting processing as of 30th June 2018.
Australian citizenship by conferral from 2005-06 to 2017-18. Data- Government of Australia
Those waiting to pledge their allegiance to Australia by becoming an Australian citizen say the long waiting time causes them to live in uncertainty.
“Given the circumstances and the recent events, migrants have never felt more vulnerable,” says Atul Vidhata who is waiting for the outcome of his citizenship application and runs social media forums for other applicants.
“Applicants are becoming less driven by the commitment to the country than they are seeking the safety of Australian Citizenship because of what the government might do to them as non-citizens,” he adds.
National security
The Department of Home Affairs attributes the long processing times to “greater national security threats” and its efforts to ensure the safety of all Australians by additional integrity measures to verify the identity and good character of applicants.
“These measures have been progressively introduced since 2015 and follow the report into the Lindt Café Siege that recommended the Department better assess the possible risks posed by individuals at the pre-visa, post-visa and pre-citizenship stages,” a Department spokesperson told SBS Punjabi.
The spokesperson added that a high demand for Australian citizenship and an increase in the number of complex cases were also contributing to delays in the processing of applications.
David Coleman – Minster for Immigration and Citizenship
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, David Coleman, said the Government is taking steps to boost resources to process applications.
“The Government has established a 50-person task force within the Department of Home Affairs to deal with highly complex citizenship applications and ensure they are dealt with as efficiently as possible,” Mr Coleman told SBS Punjabi.
“An additional 150 staff are also being allocated to focus solely on the processing of applications, with all additional staff expected to be in the role by the end of the year.”

The most common reasons for Australian citizenship refusals
Over 4,000 migrants were refused Australian citizenship in 2016-17. Here are some of the most common reasons that can have your citizenship application knocked back.
Mr Coleman says due to these measures, more than 33,800 citizenship were processed in the first three months of this financial year, up from 18,700 during the same period in 2017-18.
Proposed changes in Citizenship law
The application backlog climbed to its current level from 81,000 in June 2017, after the federal government announced an overhaul of the citizenship legislation, proposing an increase in the general residence requirement and a stand-alone English language test.
However, it was struck off the Senate notice paper in October last year after the government failed to bring it for a debate.
Though the revised legislation was listed for introduction in Senate during the Spring sitting of parliament, Mr Coleman told SBS Punjabi earlier this month that the government was still consulting on the elements of the Bill.
Greens Immigration spokesperson Nick McKim said the Government was using the Citizenship Bill for political posturing and claimed it didn’t have the numbers to pass the Bill. He told SBS Punjabi that if the Government delayed a debate on it, his party would once again move to have it removed from the Senate notice paper.
“The Greens aren’t prepared to just sit by and just allow this legislation to remain on notice paper if the Government isn’t going to bring it on,” he said.
“We will certainly consider once again to have this legislation struck off the notice paper if we think the government is using it for political posturing.”
Indian migrants top source of citizenship in Australia
India has emerged as the top source of Australian citizenship, overtaking the United Kingdom, with over 118,000 Indian-born migrants pledging allegiance to Australia over the last five years.
Indians top Australian citizenship charts
Of the 54,419 citizenship applications approved as of 28th February this year, Indian migrants were at the top of the nationalities chart with 10,168 Indian-born people becoming Australian citizens, closely followed by 9,195 people from the United Kingdom.
Indian migrants have emerged as the top source of citizenship by conferral in Australia during the last five years, overtaking the United Kingdom.
In 2016/17, 22,006 Indians pledged allegiance to Australia, ahead of 19,617 people from the UK.
Since 2012/13, over 118,000 people Indian-born migrants have become Australian citizens.

Home Affairs must review naturalisation regulations: Public Protector

01 March 2018 – Sowetan Live

Home Affairs must review naturalisation regulations says Public Protector.
The Public Protector has ordered the Home Affairs Minister to review the 10-year period to apply for naturalisation and ensure it aligns with the five-year period in the Citizenship Act.
The Public Protector received communication from 18 individuals who complained about the time it took for the department to finalise their applications for naturalisation. She received the complaints between 2014 and 2017.
Some complained about the department of home affairs’ decision to reject their applications for naturalisation on the basis that their applications were made before the expiry of 10 years after obtaining a permanent resident permit.
Others complained of the long period it took before their applications were adjudicated.
One of the complainants stated that he received his permanent resident permit in January 2008. He lodged his application for naturalisation in January 2013. The department informed him that his application was premature.
The eight complainants submitted their applications for naturalisation‚ and the response from the department took between 13 months and 48 months to advise them of the outcome of their applications.
Ten other complainants had waited for between 13 months and 48 months and they had not received the response from the department at the time of lodging their complaints.

The Public Protector‚ in her findings‚ said Section 5 of the Citizenship Act provided that a person may be naturalised five years after being resident in South Africa.
This was in contrast with Regulation 3(2) of the Act‚ which provides that the period referred to the Act for naturalisation is 10 years.
“The Regulations … ascribe a period of ordinary residence as 10 years contrary to the 5 year period specified in the Act‚” the Public Protector said in her report.
She said ten of the complainants had the permanent residence permits and had met the minimum requirement of five years immediately preceding the date of their applications.
“Despite meeting these requirements‚ the (department) disqualified them on the basis that their applications for naturalisation were premature‚” the Public Protector said in her report.
She said the department‚ in adjudicating the applications‚ improperly applied section 5(1)(c) of the Citizenship Act and said the 10-year period prescribed in the regulations was inconsistent with the provisions of the Act.
In her remedial action‚ the public protector said the minister must initiate a review of the regulations‚ specifically the 10-year period to apply for naturalisation‚ as this was inconsistent with the Citizenship Act. She said this must be done within three months.
She also said the director-general of the department must issue letters of apology to the complainants within 30 days after the issuing of the report.
She said the department must also review the naturalisation applications submitted by the complainants.
She said the director-general must‚ within six months of the report‚ publish standard operating procedures with turnaround times on how long it should take to adjudicate upon applications for naturalisation.

Dirco urges journalists to carry correct travel documents

At a press briefing on Monday, Sisulu congratulated the South African high commissioner to Tanzania, saying “he [Thami Mseleku] worked overnight” to help former Mail & Guardian editor Angela Quintal and her Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) colleague Muthoki Mumo who were detained for five hours by Tanzanian authorities.
Quintal and Mumo were involved with meeting several local journalists and asking about their views before they were detained in the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, for five hours.
According to Sisulu, Tanzanian authorities told her the journalists were detained because they had entered the country on visitors permits and not a working visa.
After their detention, Quintal and Mumo were released and later received their passports from Tanzanian authorities.They subsequently left Tanzania.
Tanzanian authorities have insisted the reason for their detention was the result of their contravention of visa regulations by working on visitors permits. There has been no mention of the work the authorities believe the pair undertook while in the country.
In a statement following Quintal and Mumo’s release last week, CPJ confirmed Quintal and Mumo had been meeting with journalist in Tanzania to understand the challenges journalists there face.
“Angela Quintal and Muthoki Mumo travelled to Tanzania to understand the challenges facing the Tanzanian press and to inform the global public,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon wrote.
“It is deeply ironic that through their unjustified and abusive detention of our colleagues, Tanzanian authorities have made their work that much easier. It is now abundantly clear to anyone who followed the latest developments that Tanzanian journalists work in a climate of fear and intimidation.
We call on the government of Tanzania to allow journalists to work freely and to allow those who defend their rights to access the country without interference.”
Days before the journalist’s detention, Quintal had shared a story pertaining to the disappearance of Tanzanian journalist, Azory Gwanda on Twitter.
In the same article shared by Quintal, it was reported that 27 journalists had been mistreated by Tanzanian police since the start of the year.
“We will always be there for you when you are in trouble, but we would like it if you stuck to the rules and regulations of any country that you visit,” Sisulu explained.
The department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) stipulates that if South Africans travelling abroad do not comply with visa or permit requirements, they can be subjected to criminal prosecution, imprisonment, deportation, or be blacklisted.
Sisulu told journalists that Dirco is available to help stranded journalists and travellers at anytime.
If South Africans find themselves in distress while travelling abroad, they can call a 24-hour call centre on 012 351 1000 as part of Dirco’s new initiative, the Travel Smart Campaign.
South African citizens are also invited to register for Rosa (Registration of South Africans Abroad) where travellers list their personal information, allowing Dirco to assist citizens who experience an emergency while abroad.
Registration is voluntary and free of charge.

What could go wrong as Australia privatises visa processing

The Mandarin 10/11/2018
On the basis of the limited information provided to the public to date, the business and risk case for privatising visa processing appears highly questionable, writes former Immigration deputy secretary Abul Rizvi.
Privatisation of core government functions such as visa processing is high risk, especially when undertaken under the cloak of commercial-in-confidence secrecy. Major ICT transformation projects conducted “in partnership” with a big IT company are also high risk. Doing the two together multiplies the risk big time, but that’s exactly what the Department of Home Affairs is doing.
The government first announced its intentions in the 2016-17 Budget through a measure titled ‘Reforming the Visa and Migration Framework’, promising to deliver significant savings for a relatively modest upfront investment.
We found out considerably more about the plan with the department’s request for information document released in January revealing that privatisation of visa processing will take place in eight separate bundles. Last month, The Australian reported bundle one, covering a ‘global delivery platform’ and certain low-risk visas, may be contracted relatively soon. Subsequent bundles involve more subjective and complex visa categories and functions, with the entire system worth in the order of a billion dollars over 10 years, according to evidence given by Home Affairs at Senate Estimates.
Overstated growth in application numbers
Home Affairs’ key justification for this unprecedented shake-up, in the Department’s own words, is that it is “faced with never before seen volumes of visa applications … forecast to increase by around 50 per cent by 2026-27.”
As the senior official responsible for design and delivery of both permanent migration and temporary entry visas from the late 1990s until 2007, I can tell you this argument is highly misleading and seriously flawed. During my time in the then Department of Immigration, we experienced a genuinely unprecedented increase in the visa caseload:
• Net overseas migration increased from 72,402 in 1997 to 301,200 in 2008, a 316 per cent increase). By contrast, the government itself is forecasting net overseas migration will actually decline from 240,300 in 2017 to 221,400 in 2021.
• The Migration Program grew from 67,900 people in 1998-99 to 171,318 in 2008-09 (an increase of 152 per cent). This government has cut the Migration Program from 190,000 in 2015-16 to 162,417 in 2017-18. All the indicators point to a further reduction in 2018-19. These cuts will lead to a reduction in citizenship applications.
• Overseas student visa grants increased from 110,894 in 1998-99 to 320,368 in 2008-09 (an increase of 189 per cent). While student visas reached 378,292 in 2017-18, policy actions government has taken to cut off opportunities for successful students to secure permanent residence will significantly slow growth in student visas over the next few years.
• Skilled temporary entry (former sub-class 457) grew from 29,320 in 1998-99 to 110,280 in 2007-08 (an increase of 276 per cent). Skilled temporary entry visa grants fell to 64,470 in 2017-18 and are likely to fall further. These falls will have flow on implications for applications for employer sponsored permanent entry.
The only areas where growth is likely to continue is in categories like visitor visas that are already largely automated and have been since the 1990s.
Ballooning backlogs and processing times
“No private company will take on these backlogs without eye-watering levels of compensation.”
One area of growth that does outstrip my time in the agency is ballooning application backlogs and blowouts in processing times. But these are due to a mixture of poor visa design changes; uncertainty around how the migration program is to be managed; reduced resources relative to other Home Affairs functions; and visa processing staff being intimidated by constant fear-mongering from the department’s leadership and demoralised by the complaints and inquiries as the large backlogs draw resources away from actual application processing.
No private company will take on these backlogs without eye-watering levels of compensation. Moreover, they will demand further recompense to get processing times back to their previous levels while maintaining high levels of visa integrity.
Revenue from visa application charges
An improved online visa processing platform is of course worth pursuing, as well as examining the option of using artificial intelligence as the department suggests. But why can’t government pay for this? The Productivity Commission found in 2016 that “revenue collected from visa charges is three times the administrative cost”. With massive increases in visa charges in recent budgets, that revenue to cost gap would now be even wider!
Treasury would never agree to relinquish such a lucrative revenue stream, so companies that win a contract to deliver visa services would need to either increase charges even further, use their monopoly position to find new revenue streams, reduce costs or rely on a growing caseload.
The final option would be taking a very big risk, unless Home Affairs guaranteed a minimum rate of caseload growth. That would hardly be conducive to good border protection and immigration policy!
Visa charges impacting key Australian industries
Home Affairs has indicated that while successful companies will be allowed to charge for premium services, the overall charges must not be greater than those of key competitor nations. That would be a hard ask given the Productivity Commission has noted that “charges for Australian visas appear to be higher than in Australia’s major competitor countries”.
Additional charges for high volume visas are also likely to be strongly opposed by key Australian industries such as tourism, education and agriculture. Home Affairs should not be allowed to wash its hand of charge increases just because they’re imposed by a private company. At this stage, it’s not clear if these industries are conscious of the potential impact on their international competitiveness.
Charging for ‘premium services’ and visa integrity
The long-term implications of allowing two separate processing streams for each visa type are truly frightening. Any monopoly provider would want to maximise charges for the fast lane and try to drive as many applicants as possible into that lane. There would inevitably be an incentive for the company to be more ‘facilitative’ on subjective criteria for applicants who paid for priority service.
For applicants and Australian sponsors who couldn’t afford the higher charges for the fast lane, we would likely see continuing acceleration of people by-passing standard off-shore visa processes and instead entering Australia on visitor visas and then applying onshore for the actual visa they need. This would perpetuate visa integrity problems including the blowout in people in Australia on bridging visas that Home Affairs has exacerbated through extraordinarily poor administration.
Home Affairs has suggested companies may also use their position to generate new revenue streams such as through online advertising or provision of ‘wrap-around services’ such as airfares, accommodation, etc. Giving a monopoly visa service provider such power raises even more issues around both visa integrity as well as potential abuse of market power.
Cutting costs
“Will the Australian public be comfortable with these extraordinary risks being taken on our behalf with such a core government function?”
A final option is for the winning company to cut costs. At present, complex visa services are delivered by relatively low paid staff in Home Affairs, particularly in centralised processing centres in cities such as Adelaide. Because these staff deal with much more highly paid lawyers and migration agents, they must have deep knowledge of the Migration Act, extensive legal skills and good knowledge of the common ways non-genuine applicants try to beat the system.
Any successful company would undoubtedly try to recruit existing Home Affairs staff but pay them less to maximise profit, as we’ve seen all too often with other outsourcing projects. Recruiting and training new staff would risk serious errors such as applicants who are not eligible being approved and applicants who are eligible being refused.
Alternatively, the successful company could seek to transfer the visa processing work to a low-wage economy overseas. This would cut costs significantly more, but the risks would rise accordingly.
On the black market, an Australian visa would be worth many times the annual salary of low-wage economy staff. Would Home Affairs cover the additional cost to monitor and investigate such corruption? And is the Australian public happy to take on such a risk given its attitude to issues such as border control and visa integrity?
We also don’t know the extent to which companies would be subject to scrutiny by government agencies such as the Ombudsman and the Auditor-General. Would Freedom of Information still be applicable? How would issues of national security be addressed? How would the successful company deal with privacy issues given the vast wealth of personal data it would have access to? Could it even be allowed to sell some of that data as an additional revenue stream?
Another issue would be the charges the successful company seeks whenever government wants to change visa design or visa policy – something that happens very regularly. Would that also impact on the policy advice Home Affairs gives to government, discouraging good advice that came at a high cost?
Finally, there’s the question of what happens to thousands of Australian staff who currently process visas as Home Affairs employees. Home Affairs would need to meet the costs of redundancy payments for staff who are no longer needed.
Will the business case be made public?
On the basis of the limited information provided to the public to date, the business and risk case for privatising visa processing appears highly questionable.
Is the government prepared to be open with the Australian public and Parliament about this high-risk initiative?
Will the Australian public be comfortable with these extraordinary risks being taken on our behalf with such a core government function?
And how long before taxpayers have to bail out the department because one or more of these risks materialises?
It really is a gamble that’s just not worth taking.

Matric pupil finally gets his ID document

Natal Mercury – 09 November 2018,
Durban – The Pietermaritzburg matric pupil who waited seven months for his smart ID from the Department of Home Affairs was finally issued with it on Saturday morning.
The pupil, who cannot be named because he is a minor, tried to hang himself this month after he was told he could not sit for his final examinations without an identity document.
After The Mercury reported on the pupil’s ordeal, a Home Affairs civic services manager contacted the family in an attempt to get to the bottom of the ID delay.
The 17-year-old boy, who was orphaned when he was two years old, tried to hang himself in a field near his Pietermaritzburg home.
In a suicide note, which he left for his family, he blamed Home Affairs for putting him through immense stress. He had written: “How can these Home Affairs people be so bad? How can they treat an orphan like this? Maybe if I am not here, you guys will be better off.”
His aunt, who also cannot be named, to protect the identity of the child, said the family celebrated after receiving the ID – something that had caused them a lot of stress this year.
“It was as if our whole lives were dedicated to getting this child’s ID. Finally we can rest, knowing that everything is sorted and it is really thanks to the media who assisted and intervened,” she said.
She said that after liaising with the civic services manager, she was thrilled to receive an SMS informing her the ID was ready for collection.
“I am so grateful to all those who assisted us and grateful to the media for exposing horrible public servants. Even through his ordeal, my nephew studied and now he is writing the examinations he never thought he would be able to write,” she said.

Ethiopia Eases Travel With ‘Visa-On-Arrival’ For African Travelers, Encouraging African Unity

Ethiopia Eases Travel With ‘Visa-On-Arrival’ For African Travelers, Encouraging African Unity

November 10, 2018 – Atlantic Blackstar

With its new initiative to offer visas on arrival to African visitors, Ethiopia hopes to spur tourism, trade and investment, as part of the African Union’s vision of creating “seamless borders” across the continent and achieving economic integration. (photo: Twitter, Ethiopian Airlines).
Ethiopia has revamped and streamlined its visa system for visitors from African nations in a move that will spur tourism, trade and investment, and has broad implications for African unity.
As of Nov. 1, Ethiopia has implemented what is known as a visa-on-arrival service for African travelers to the East African nation, allowing foreign visitors to receive a visa upon arrival, and effectively opening its doors to all people arriving from throughout the continent.
“It is truly an honor and a special privilege to witness this historical and truly inspirational day. Ethiopian Airlines has been bringing Africa together and closer to the world for over seven decades,” said Ethiopian Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam at a ceremony held at the African Union Commission headquarters. “Today, Ethiopian flies to 60 African destinations and connects the continent to over 50 major international cities in five continents. Visa on arrival for fellow African brothers and sisters and, more importantly, visa online will greatly boost cross-border tourism, trade and investment, further deepening African integration.”
The new Ethiopian visa announcement comes on the heels of a new e-Visa service that was launched in June. That service, initiated by the Ethiopian Immigration and Nationality Affairs Main Department in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines, allows all international visitors to apply and pay for a tourist visa online and receive it by email message, reducing wait times and streamlining the travel process, and eliminating the need for travelers to go to the Ethiopian Embassy in their home country to apply for a travel permit. The driving force behind the revamped visa service is “a new national initiative to transform the tourism sector” in Ethiopia, according to a press release, as Ethiopian Airlines hopes the new visa initiative will facilitate conference tourism and boost tourism flow. For the airline, which is unquestionably the largest carrier in Africa, the visa plan falls into its pan-African strategy of further connecting and creating alliances in the African airline industry.
The recent steps taken by Ethiopia — Africa’s second-largest country in terms of population and the continent’s fastest growing economy — has taken point to a larger trend that other African nations are expected to follow. This as Ethiopia ultimately wants to enable the economic integration of the continent and facilitate the AU’s promotion of the free movement of people across Africa. Kenya, Rwanda, and Mauritius have all eased visa restrictions in the past few years, and Ghana has offered visas upon arrival to all African nationals, even as some African nations have gone in the other direction.
For example, South Africa has eased restrictions on Chinese and Indian visitors, but not on travelers from within the African continent. In addition, Tanzania has reversed its visa-on-arrival policy for Nigeria, Mali, and Somalia.
The AU, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa, has urged all member nations to issue a visa-on-arrival program by 2023. The AU Agenda 2063 also calls for the issuance of an African Common Passport by 2023. In 2016, the AU announced the launch of an e-passport, which will be initially available to African heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives of AU member nations. Such moves ultimately will create “seamless borders” across the continent in a European Union-style concept, and allow for closer steps toward economic integration of Africa. In February 2018, the AU introduced a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), an effort to liberalize civil aviation and break down barriers to trade and labor movement in Africa, which have stifled African development over the years. SAATM promises to increase airline connectivity across the continent and enhance competitiveness in the African airline sector, resulting in an expansion in tourism, trade and commerce within Africa and with the rest of the world. The AU expects a unified airline market — which includes the lifting of visa restrictions and dropping tariff and customs restraints — will bring about 300,000 additional direct jobs and two million indirect jobs.
Last year, the AU launched the “.africa” domain, which aspires to unite Africa on the Internet just as the member nations seek greater connectivity in the air and in travel, trade and investment.
With the introduction of an innovative and streamlined visa program for its fellow African travelers, Ethiopia is setting a standard for Africans to follow, in a pan-African vision of economic cooperation that can only boost the continent.

Malawi Govt urgently recalls RSA’s High Commissioner, 3 diplomats to return home in seven days

11 Nov 2018 – Maravi Post
LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Government this week fired four diplomats at Malawi High Commission in Pretoria South Africa including the head of the mission and they have been given seven days each to pack up and return home.

According to Foreign Affairs Ministry, Malawian High Commissioner to South Africa Professor Chrissie Kaponda, Defence Attaché Colonel Lawrence Mambo, first secretary (protocol) Kondwani and Daniel Salimu second secretary (social services) were effectively out of work and must return home.

“I write to inform you that government has directed that the exigencies of services require that you be recalled to Malawi with immediate effect,” reads a communication from Foreign Affairs Ministry signed by acting Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Corporation Veronica Chidothe.

The letter dated November 1 2018 under reference number EA/1/3/55B says the recalled diplomats are expected to return to Malawi within seven days.
High Commissioner Kaponda confirmed she has been recalled but could not state the reasons behind the recall.
Meanwhile, the two that have survived the chop are those related to the power-that-be. They fare deputy head of Mission Gloria Bamusi and Rosaline Mapundula, First Secretary (Political Affairs).
Bamusi becomes the de facto acting head of the mission.