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Illegal workers targeted

On Wednesday 29 April 2015, a joint team of 50 officers from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Queensland Police Service descended on a Redcliffe construction site. The morning raid apprehended 14 Chinese and 4 Malaysian construction workers allegedly working illegally.

This has exposed the workers to potential fines of up to $51,000 per person and up to five years in jail. The companies responsible for providing them with work could face up to $255,000 in fines for an aggravated criminal offence.

Unlike our European and North American counterparts who, because of their geographical location have more porous land borders, illegal workers have, traditionally, not been a huge issue in the Australian employment market. However illegal workers and those who choose to employ them now seem firmly in the cross hairs of a range of Australian government agencies. Responding to media enquiries for comment on the Redcliffe arrests, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said “Under the Coalition Government, immigration compliance teams are not just targeting illegal workers but also employers who are doing the wrong thing. The Government will actively pursue substantial fines to deter further illegal work practices.”

As a guide the following persons may legally work within Australia:

  •  Australian citizens;
  •  New Zealand citizens who entered Australia on a valid New Zealand passport;
  •  Australian permanent residents;
  •  Non-citizens holding a valid visa with work rights;
  •  Temporary residents (with permission to work); and
  •  Students (with permission to work).

Those who fall outside of these categories are not able to work while in Australia. The producing of documents such as a driver’s licence, tax file number or medicare card do not constitute proof of a right to work.

Employers are able to check the status of visas and work rights through the Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) tool. DIBP also runs an anonymous “Dob-In” Service for members of the public to report illegal migration or work activities on 1800 009 623.

For a more specialised opinion on all matters that relate to migration or employment law contact Bell Legal Group. Esef Mirascija is a highly regarded solicitor and accredited migration agent able to assist with any migration law matter. He has helped migrants from all over the world come to Australia and specialises in business migration, skilled migration, family migration, employer sponsored migration, refugee migration as well as visitor and student Visas.