October 05, 2012
The mayor of the rural Victorian city of Swan Hill says more asylum seekers should be sent to fill labour shortages in regional Australia.
John Katis says asylum seekers are being put through tortuous bureaucracy by the Department of Immigration instead of being allowed to go to communities where they are desperately needed.
He says the Afghans in his region are hardworking and fit well into the community.
“I can say in a couple of words: bloody ridiculous. Somewhere along the line the ministers have lost their plot when it comes to immigration,” he said.
“They will work from daylight till dusk. These are the kind of people that we want to come into our country.”
Mr Katis says Swan Hill has residents from more than 40 countries.
He says Afghan and other asylum seekers are making a big contribution to local industries and the community.
They will work from daylight till dusk. These are the kind of people that we want to come into our country.John Katis
“Let’s make those people’s lives a bit easier and bring them in as quick as possible because we do need them, simple as that.”
Mr Katis says instead of using foreign labourers on temporary visas, more asylum seekers should be given the chance to work and settle in regional Australia.
“They support the community. What more can you want of anybody that is working on the land? I think they do a fantastic job,” he said.
Peter McIntosh, a local horticulturalist at nearby Robinvale, employs several workers of Afghan origin.
“It’s of great importance to our region because we are always crying out for people who want to work in the region and do the type of work that we require,” he said.
One of Mr McIntosh’s workers is 32-year-old Hussain Ali Hussaini, who arrived on Christmas Island by boat 11 years ago.
Mr Hussaini’s parents were killed in Afghanistan.
He has brought two of his brothers to Australia but three others are stranded in Pakistan.
The case has twice been referred to Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who decided it would not be in the public interest to intervene.
“It took over 11 months for the minister to say no and then another six months to say no again. I just find that absolutely ridiculous,” Mr McIntosh said.
Mr McIntosh says the Hussaini brothers who are in Australia are all working in Robinvale and studying English at TAFE.
“His brothers have come here and are living here and working here and are absolutely no drain on the taxpayer,” he said.
Mr Hussaini is trying to follow the legal process rather than use people smugglers to bring his remaining brothers to Australia.
“I’ve been waiting and I still hope someone help me and I get some good news,” he said.
A spokesman for Mr Bowen released a statement to AM.
“While most applicants have suffered some form of discrimination or persecution, the limited number of visas available and the high demand for these places means that only the most compelling are able to be resettled in Australia,” the statement said.
Mr Hussaini says becoming an Australian citizen was the happiest day of his life.
But he is very distressed about the fate of his brothers in Pakistan. He is yet to tell them their application has been refused.
“I cannot tell them the last hope is gone,” he said.
The Federal Government increased Australia’s humanitarian immigration intake on the advice of the expert panel on asylum seekers earlier this year, but it tightened the rules on family reunion concessions.