Greek stone mason Jani Mollas. Source: News Limited
THOUSANDS of young people from financially struggling nations, such as Greece and Spain will be allowed to work in Australia under a major migration scheme.
Critics say the program threatens local jobs, but the Immigration Department is pushing the working holiday program.
It is the largest of its kind in the world, with almost 260,000 visas issued in 2012-13, according to the department’s annual report.
Australia has visa arrangements with 28 countries and negotiations are under way with another 13, including financially crippled nations with high youth unemployment such as Greece, Spain and Portugal.
The program, which allows foreigners aged 18-30 to work in Australia, has been criticised by unions and some migration experts for threatening the job prospects of young locals.
They say that Europeans, in particular, are fleeing their dismal economies, coming to Australia as working holiday-makers and, in many cases, being sponsored for longer-term visas by employers.
But immigration authorities said that the visa program was providing strong support to the agricultural, mining, construction and tourism industries.
“Research indicates that for every 100 working holiday-makers arriving in Australia, there is a net gain to the Australian economy of 6.3 full time jobs,” said the department’s annual report.
This meant an estimated net gain to the Australian economy of more than 16,000 full-time jobs, it said.
Other countries negotiating with Australia for the scheme include the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia and Vietnam.
The annual report said that 38,147 people were held in immigration detention in 2012-13, almost double the number for the previous year.
This included 28,000 unauthorised arrivals, mainly coming by boat, and 2800 people who had either overstayed or breached visa conditions.
The 2012-13 permanent migration program comprised 190,000 places, including 129,000 in the skilled stream.
A further 20,000 people were granted humanitarian visas.
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