INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT
OUT OF THE SHADOWS
A REVIEW OF THE 1980 REGULARISATION
OF STATUS PROGRAMME IN AUSTRALIA
with the assistance of
International Labour Office, Geneva
MIG WP 7
INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT
OUT OF THE SHADOWS
A REVIEW OF THE 1980 REGULARISATION
OF STATUS PROGRAMME IN AUSTRALIA
with the assistance of
Note: This is a Working Paper issued by the International Migration for
Employment Branch. It is circulated informally in a limited number
of copies to stimulate discussion and critical comment. It is
restricted and should not be cited without permission.
C( International Labour Orginisation,
The designations of countries employed, which are in conformity
with United Nations practices, and the presentation of the
material in this paper do not imply the expression of any opinion
whatsoever on the part of the International Labour Office con-
cerning the legal status of any country or territory or of its
authorities, or concerning the delimitations of its frontiers.
The responsibility for opinions expressed in ILO Working Papers
rests solely with their authors, and their circulation does
not in any way constitute an endorsement by the International
Labour Office of the opinions expressed in them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. FOREWORD, by W.R. B6hning .......................................... iii
B. OUT OF THE SHADOWS A REVIEW OF THE 1980 REGULARISATION OF
STATUS PROGRAMME IN AUSTRALIA
I. INTRODUCTION .................................................... 1
(a) The Illegal Immigration Phenomenon .......................... 1
(b) Aims, Structure and Methodology ............................. 3
II. THE CONTEXT OF AUSTRALIAN IMMIGRATION ........................... 5
(a) Post-War Migration ........................................... 5
(b) Migration Policies and Labour Force Requirements ............ 7
(c) The Growth of "Illegals" in the Seventies ................... 8
III. THE REGULARISATION OF STATUS PROGRAMME .......................... 10
(a) Terms and Conditions of ROSP ................................ 10
(b) The Purpose of ROSP ....................................... 11
(c) Why Was There an Amnesty in 1980? ........................... 13
(d) ROSP and Politics ........................................... 18
(e) Legal Status of Future Prohibited Migrants .................. 21
(f) The Implementation of ROSP .................................. 23
IV. EVALUATION OF ROSP .............................................. 25
(a) Community Reaction .......................................... 25
(1) The Australian Media .................................... 25
(2) Ethnic Community Reaction: The Ethnic Press ............ 28
(3) The Response of the Ethnic Community: Ethnic
Organizations .......................................... 30
(b) Characteristics of Applicants for Amnesty ................... 36
(1) Sex Distribution ....................................... 36
(2) Age Distribution ....................................... 36
(3) Birthplace ............................................. 37
(4) Marital Status ......................................... 39
(5) Families ............................................... 40
(6) Type of Visa Used to Enter Australia ................... 40
(7) Why Did Certain Groups Enter Australia Illegally? ...... 41
(8) Year of Arrival ........... ............................ 43
(9) Occupations of Applicants .............................. 44
(c) Immigration Changes since ROSP .............................. 45
V. CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS AND LESSONS ........................... 48
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VI. ANNEX ..................................................... 48
Amnesty Experience in Australia: Some Implications for
the U.S.A. .............................................. 48
How the Amnesty was Conducted .......................... 57
Persons Applying for Amnesty ........................... 59
Why not Amnesty ........................................ 60
Some Implications for the U.S.A. ....................... 63
VII. REFERENCES CITED ........................................... 66
VIII. LIST OF TABLES
1. The changing patterns of immigration 1947-73, by origin 6
2. Changing nature of sources of Australian immigration,
1970 to 1977/78 .................................... 6
3. Capital cities where 1976 amnesty applications were
lodged ............................................. 14
4. Deportation orders made 1973-80 ........................ 15
5. Deportations carried out 1973-80 ....................... 15
6. Visitors applying and receiving permanent status ....... 16
7. Ratio of refusal for every acceptance of short-term
visitors and long-term settlers .................... 19
8. What proportion of illegals of your community applied
for amnesty? ....................................... 31
9. Stated main reasons for illegal immigration to Australia 32
10. Why didn't all eligible persons apply for ROSP? ........ 32
11. What were the Government's purposes in having ROSP? .... 33
12. How good was the ROSP campaign? ........................ 33
13. How 1980 ROSP could have been more effective ........... 35
14. Age structure of adult ROSP applicants compared with
settler migrants and general Victorian population... 37
15. Birthplace of ROSP applicants compared with Australians
and settlers arrivals, 1979 ........................ 38
16. Marital status of ROSP applicants compared with
settlers, 1978-79 .................................. 40
17. Children of ROSP applicants ............................ 40
18. Visas used by ROSP applicants to enter Australia ....... 41
19. Visas of ROSP applicants by birthplace ................. 42
20. Occupations of ROSP applicants ......................... 44
C. INTERNATIONAL MIGRATION FOR EMPLOYMENT WORKING PAPERS ............ 68
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This is the seventh working paper of the ILO's International Migration for
Employment Branch. The objectives of the Branch are to contribute to (1) the
evaluation, formulation and application of international migration policies
suited to the economic and social aims of governments, employers' and workers'
organizations, and (2) the increase in equality of opportunity and treatment
of migrants and the protection of their rights and dignity. Its means of action
are (a) research and reports, (b) technical advisory services, (c) technical
co-operation, (d) meetings, and (e) work concerned with international labour
standards. The Branch also collects, analyses and disseminates relevant informat-
ion and acts as the information source for ILO constituents, ILO units and other
Migrant workers who are undocumented or in an irregular situation in respect
of admission, stay or employment are one of the priority subjects of work in
the coming years. To begin with, research will explore questions such as the
causes of irregular admission, stay or employment, why existing channels are
bypassed, the scope and constraints of sanctions against employers, traffickers
and migrants, as well as the role and effectiveness of amnesties or similar
measures. In the latter context, several studies have been initiated and the
following is one of them.
Des Storer provides a descriptive analysis of, inter alia, the reasons
for Australia's 1980 Regularisation of Status Programme and of the reactions
of a number of ethnic organizations to it. Their views were collected with
the help of a postal questionnaire. Another innovative feature of Des Storer's
paper is the analysis of the characteristics of a sample of some 2000 persons
approved for amnesty in the city of Melbourne. Whether or not this is a repre-
sentative sample is difficult to establish; but the order of magnitude and the
Readers may be interested in an earlier study by David S. North: The
Canadian experience with amnesty for aliens what the United States can learn;
ILO, Geneva, October 1979; mimeographed World Employment Programme Research
Working Paper; restricted; and in a review of last autumn's French amnesty by
J.-P. Garson and Y. Moulier: Les clandestins et la r6gularisation de 1981-82 en
France; ILO, Geneva, May 1979; mimeographed International Migration for Employment
Working Paper; restricted, which will shortly appear in English.
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differences among groups or categories are such as to indicate that the results
of other samples could not be very different in Australia as a whole. It is
worthwhile to summarise these data here:
Three quarters of applicants are male or between 21 and 40 years of age;
high proportions (38%) were of Asian origin (compared with only 6.5% of
the general Australian population); there was a higher number than ex-
pected of persons of Malaysian, Philippine, Indonesian and Hong Kong origin
who applied for amnesty; persons from the United Kingdom and Ireland
accounted for 18% of applicants, 11% from southern Europe and 10% from
eastern Europe about equivalent to expectations; higher proportions of
persons from the Middle East applied, about twice the proportion of recent
immigrants; the majority of applicants are single (65%), only 35% cur-
rently married, compared with 44% of recent settlers; only 13.5% appli-
cants included spouses, and 8% children, with their applications; 27%
came on temporary resident visas, 27% on visitors visas and nearly 30%
overstayed family reunion visas; the majority of eastern European ,
southern European as well as of the Middle East and southern American
applicants overstayed family reunion visas; the majority of Anglo-Saxons
entered on temporary residence visas; the majority of Asian and Pacific
Islanders entered.on visitors visas; three quarters had entered Australia
within the previous three years; 51% were unskilled, 6% professionals
and businessmen, 8% small shopkeepers, 15% professionals and clerical,
11% skilled tradespeople and 10% were not in paid employment; Asians,
Pacific Islanders, people from the Middle East and southern Europeans
tended to be unskilled or small shopkeepers; and Anglo-Saxons were profes-
sionals, skilled tradesmen or in small businesses.
Des Storer also attempted to draw lessons from this amnesty measure for
Australia itself and for other countries which might face a similar situation.
In this respect it is telling to compare his analysis of the 1980 amnesty with
his analysis attached as an appendix here of the earlier amnesty undertaken
by Australia in 1976.
B. OUT OF THE SHADOWS -
A REVIEW OF THE 1980 REGULARISATION
OF STATUS PROGRAMME IN AUSTRALIA
with the assistance of
(Institute of Family Studies,
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)
(a) The Illegal Immigration Phenomenon
As a leading researcher on international migration has observed
"In any but the most Draconian immigration systems there are
bound to be aliens within a host nation whose presence has not been
accepted in law by that nation" (North, 1979, p. 2).
"Illegal aliens" or "undocumented immigrants" often exacerbate the
dilemmas that governments must deal with in respect of their broader im-
migration and resettlement policies. The underground networks of com-
munities of juridically non-existing people creates "a grey area" in
society which is perceived as a threat by many because of its undertermined
influence on the economy and life of that society.
Such "grey areas" are tolerated in time of economic growth. In fact,
many commentators argue that it is the very actions of business in con-
junction with governments who require labour in boom times that in fact
encourage the whole process of illegal migration to develop (see e.g.
Piore, 1979; and Tomasiand Keely, 1978).
Today, of course, very few countries experience much growth. Most
are going through a period of economic recession marked by growing rates
of inflation and unemployment. With this there has been reduced demand
for and intake of legal migrants. There has not, however, been a corres-
ponding reduction in the causes for and supply of potential immigrants.
Consequently, with the cutbacks in legal migration in most countries in
the seventies, there has been a considerable growth in the numbers of people
living and working in traditional migrant-receiving countries (e.g. Canada,
United States,.Australia, Federal Republic of Germany, France, Venezuela,
Argentina, etc.) who have not entered through legal procedures.
Illegals form "sub-societies" which do not exist de jure. Even to
acknowledge them de facto is ideologically and politically controversial.
In times of economic recessions the population of migrant-receiving countries
demands economic solutions. Without solutions, excuses are needed and
scapegoats have to be found. Migrant workers,.especailly the more recently
arrived and socially, racially or culturally different, are invariably
among the first of the scapegoats. Workers and unions from the migrant-
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receiving countries argue that illegals are taking "their jobs"; government
bureaucracies argue they are "living off welfare" and not paying taxes; con-
servative and right-wing groups state illegals are "undermining our way of
life", and so on.
As North (1979, p. 2) succinctly puts it, the government of a migrant-
receiving nation has three basic choices in how to handle the situation of
"illegal alien residents":
it can expel them,
it can ignore them, or
legalise the presence of some or all of these people.
For convenience, we can term this third procedure an amnesty.
In the seventies, governments have increasingly had to face up to what
to do about illegals. They could conveniently ignore them in earlier times
of economic growth but can no longer do this because of the pressures of various
groups in the host community. Governments attempt to catch and expel illegals
whenever they can. But this is very time-consuming, difficult and expensive.
It requires not only massive resources in terms of manpower and finance but
also supportive legislation in terms of heavy fines for employers knowlingly
using illegal immigrant workers. Many attempts have been made in the United
States, the Federal Republic of Germany and other countries to instigate such
legalisation, but this has not proved to be successful for it requires massive
resources to be enforced.
For economic and social as well as political reasons, governments have
from time to time found it necessary to turn to the third option and call an
amnesty allowing all illegals to declare themselves to regularise their status.
In the.1970's various forms of amnesty were declared in Canada (1973), Argentina
(1974), Australia (1976), the Netherlands (1975), Belgium (1975) and very limited
specific amnesties in the Federal Republic of Germany (1972) and the United
Generally, these amnesties were only a limited success in that compara-
tively few illegals declared themselves. The amnesties were usually followed
by periods of concerted efforts to search out "illegals" who did not come forward
to regularise their status. Those caught were deported (see e.g. Storer, 1977,
reprinted in the Appendix to this paper). Reviews of such amnesties (see North
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1979 ; Hawkins, Storer and Tomasi, 1976) indicate that there is little infor-
mation provided on who the illegals were, where they came from and where they
had been living or working. In other words, we have learned remarkably little
from previous efforts to bring illegals out of the shadows.
The most recent governmental effort to do this was the six months Regula-
risation of Status Programme instigated by the Australian Government and its
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It was hoped that this amnesty,
being most recent, would have learnt from earlier attempts both within Australia
and in other countries and would be able to provide more extensive information
on the characteristics and experiences of illegals.
(b) Aims, Structure and Methodology
This paper aims to do three things. First, to describe and review the
Regularisation of Status Programme (ROSP) carried out in Australia between
19 June and 31 December 1980 This review aims to cover the history, back-
ground planning, the timing, official purposes and implementation of ROSP.
This research is largely based on interviews with the Department of Immigration
and Ethnic Affairs (DIEA) officials involved in ROSP, official statements of
the Minister, various reports of the DIEA and other departments and bureaux as
well as some initial statements by other political parties and some representa-
tives of ethnic organizations.
The second major concern is to evaluate the effectiveness of ROSP. This
evaluation extends to three subject matters:
i) An assessment of the reaction of the Australian community in general and
of relevant ethnic groups and organizations in particular. This is done
by a content analysis of the news and editorials of Australian and ethnic
media and by a questionnaire sent to 28 ethnic community organizations.
ii) An analysis of DIEA Melbourne office records of the social characteristics
of "illegals" who applied for ROSP. This entailed the analysis of 2,003
files. The analysis will compare the characteristics of ROSP applicants
with the characteristics of official incoming settlers and the Australian
population in general
This regularisation of Status Programme will primarily be referred to
as ROSP throughout this report. As will be later explained this ROSP was, in
iii) An assessment of whether ROSP has solved any or all of the problems it
hoped to. This will be done by a review of what has happened since ROSP
in terms of illegal immigrants and in terms of Australian overall immi-
Finally, the paper will highlight the major findings of our review and
provide a discussion of these findings. Some suggestions will be made as to
further amnesties in Australia and other countries.
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II. THE CONTEXT OF AUSTRALIAN IMMIGRATION
It is important to place the discussion of ROSP in a broader historical
context to enable a better understanding of the forces giving rise to it.
This section will summarise the stages of immigration since the end of the
second world war. Some analysis of the implications of these post-war de-
.velopments and the authors' thesis of why such developments occurred will
then be briefly presented.
(a) Post-War Migration
Following the end of the second world war Australia was a msall-scale
society consisting of some 7 million people, ninety five per cent of whom
had either been born in Australia (85 %) or had been born in the United
Kingdom or Ireland (10 %). Due to war losses and the low birth rates of
the nineteen thirties, there were considerable shortages of manpower for
post-war reconstruction, industrial regeneration and for the purposes of
defence. Consequently, in 1947 Australia embarked on a deliberate mass
migration policy that was to change the nature and shape of its social,
economic and cultural life.
Since 1947 over j million migrants have entered and settled in Australia,
giving birth to over 2 million children. This has accounted for a post-
war population growth of about 70 per cent.
Even though migration preferences have always been for people from
the United Kingdom or Ireland, for various social, economic and political
reasons this did not eventuate. To achieve migration targets set annually
at 1 per cent, Australia entered into a series of agreements, first with
eastern and western European countries (1947-54), next with southern European
countries in the mid 1950s and early 1960s, then after 1966 with middle
Eastern countries and following 1972 with various Asian countries. The sta-
tistics in Tables 1 and 2 indicate the nature, extent and changing patterns
of post-war migration as well as the diversity of population that make up
present day Australia. Today, some 39 per cent of the population have them-
selves been born overseas or have had a parent born overseas and nearly
25 per cent can claim to be of direct non-Anglo Saxon origin.
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Table 1: The changing patterns of
immigration 1947-1973, by origin.
Origin 1947-51 1951-61 1961-66 1966-71 1971-73 Total
United Kingdom 41.4 32.6 54.7 53.9 65.2 45.1
North Europe 7.5 26.3 0.8 4.9 -0.8 11.6
East.Europe 37.3 5.0 6.6 13.3 7.6 13.5
South Europe 11.5 33.1 29.4 11.3 -3.5 21.4
Asia 1.6 2.3 5.2 11.2' 21.2 5.7
Africa 0.1 0.2 1.5 1.5 2.8 0.9
America 0.5 0.4 1.8 3.8 7.5 1.8
Total foreign 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Annual average 116,089 83,253 92,051 121,284 56,453 95,249
Source: National Population Inquiry, 1975, p. 117
Table 2: Changing nature
1970 to 1977/78
of Australian immigration
Origin. 1970-75 1975-76 1977-78
United Kingdom and Ireland 42 33 29
North Europe 10 6 6
South Europe 19 16 10
Middle East 4 6 12
Asia 7 14 22
Oceania 5 10 12
South America 4 7 2
North America 6 5 3
Africa 3 3 4
Source: Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Review 1978.
The Borrie report on Australia's population (National Population Inquiry,
1975), demonstrated that Australia is among the youngest (average median
age being 28) and most diverse of all advanced market economy countries.
(b) Migration Policies and Labour Force Requirements
There is considerable evidence to show how migration policies have been
closely linked to Australian economic requirements in terms of labour force
needs both brawn and brainpower and to build up a larger pool of internal
consumers (see,for example, Collins, 1976; Storer, 1978). The most recent
work that specifically analyses the motivations of various Im migration Depart-
ments since the war has been Birrell and Birrell (1981). These systematic
analyses of post-war policies show that:
in high growth periods, i.e. 1947-1971, successive governments have had
to seek out migrants (especially unskilled labour) from wherever they
could. Governments preferred Anglo Saxons, but where these could not
be obtained they took in succession southern Europeans, people from
middle Eastern countries and more recently people from south-east Asia
and south American countries;
the economic demands in post-war growth periods created the initial
impetus for migration programmes, which in turn created dependence on
migrant labour to do much of the work that native-born Australians,
Anglo Saxon migrants and even second generation migrants increasingly
refuse to do;
migration to Australia reached a peak in the years of the late 1960s
when over 200,000 immigrants were being settled annually. These were
the years of highest growth in post-war Australia intensified by a
resources or minerals boom. This was also the period when most middle
Eastern and Asian migrants began to migrate to Australia (economic
requirements chipping into the walls of the "White Australia" policy);
following the late 1960s boom and especially the OPEC decisions of 1971-
1973, Australia entered first a period of stagnation and then a period
of high inflation, rising unemployment and low economic growth;
in this context, the Labour Governments of 1972-75 drastically cut back
on migrant intake such that it fell to only 50,000 in 1975-76. The aim
was only to allow some family reunion and a few skilled migrants to
settle in Australia. In this period an "easy visa" scheme was introduced
to permit people easy access for short-term stays in Australia;
since 1976 the Liberal-National Party Coalition Governments have gradually
increased migrant intake up to 70,000 annually in 1977-79 and 90,000
in 1980-81. However, in this period Australia was under considerable
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pressure to take Indo-Chinese refugees and up to 15,000 such refugees
annually have been incorporated into overall migrant intake. The stated
policy of 1977-80 has been to attract skilled migrants (30 per cent of
intake) plus family reunion (30-35 per cent), refugees (10-15 per cent)
and Trans-Tasman migrants and others.
It is in this general context of post-war migration policies and in the
context of more restrictive intake policies of the seventies that we must
try to describe and evaluate the 1980 ROSP.
(c) The Growth of "Illegals" in the Seventies
As immigration policies became more restrictive in the seventies and
as the problems of economic recessions increased, many people began to comment
on the numbers of immigrants living and working "illegally" in Australia.
By 1975, the media and immigration officials were repeatedly quoting figures
suggesting that there were between 35,000 and 45,000 illegal immigrants in
Australia. Most blamed the "easy visa system" of 1973-74 for this growth
in illegals. In 1974 a very brief amnesty was called; and in early 1976 another
more substantial 3 month period was introduced in which all illegal immigrants
without criminal records or infectious health problems could apply for amnesty.1
Both these early amnesties were relatively unsuccessful in that only 400
applied in 1974 and 8,500 in 1976. In effect, only about 20 per cent of
those estimated as eligible for an amnesty applied.
It is widely believed that the remaining 30,000 plus "Illegals" have
grown to nearly 60,000 since 1976. The reasons for such growth of illegals
is unclear but various reasons put forward have included:
increasing restrictions on family reunion applications (especially from
southern European and middle Eastern countries);
increasing numbers of Indo-Chinese and other south-east Asians desperate
to migrate to Australia;
increasing numbers of nddle Eastern, south American and south African persons
wanting to leave countries.of political turmoil;
the development of various entrepreneurial rackets to allow easy entry
of such persons into Australia.
An analysis of these earlier amnesties has been carried out by the
author. This analysis has been appended for easy reference and will be refer-
red to from time to time in this review.
In 1979/80 the media began to report on stories about such entrepreneurial
rackets, Indo-Chinese illegal boat people, illegals taking jobs of Australian
born, and so on. Community pressure began to mount to "do something" about
this situation. In 1979/80 this was intensified by the rapidly increasing
numbers of representations made to the Minister concerning refused migrant
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III. THE REGULARISATION OF STATUS PROGRAMME
Given the broad context of post-war migration and the developments of
illegal migration in the nineteen seventies we now turn to the recent attempt
of the Australian Government to deal with this situation by declaring a
Regularisation of Status Programme (ROSP) in 1980. In this section we will
explain the terms and conditions of this programme. We are then concerned
to describe some of the reasons as to why ROSP was initiated at this time,
the politics that were involved in its initiation and the mechanics and pro-
cesses of its implementation.
(a) Terms and Conditions of ROSP
On 19 June 1980 the Australian Minister for Immigration and Ethnic
Affairs, the Hon. Ian Macphee, M.P., announced what in effect was an amnesty
for an estimated 60,000 illegal immigrants. ROSP was intended to regularise
the situation of certain categories of illegals. The terms and conditions
persons, whether present legally or illegally, who had arrived in
Australia prior to January 1980 and who wished to remain permanently
in Australia. They could apply for the grant of permanent resident
status before 31 December 1980;
persons still lawfully in Australia who had previously applied for
permanent resident status and whose application had been refused or
was still under consideration. They could re-apply or request that
their current application be considered under ROSP. These applications
also had to be effected before 31 December 1980.
As with all immigrants and refugees, applicants under ROSP and all
members of their immediate families, in Australia or overseas, would have
to meet health and character requirements for migration. They would also
be required to have been of good character before coming to Australia and
while in Australia. In addition, the applicants and all members of their
families had to have a genuine intention to reside permanently in Australia.
Persons explicitly excluded from ROSP were those people who were in
Australia as overseas students or foreign diplomats or officials, employees
or members of their families. Further, persons under order to be deported
at the date of the announcement were also excluded.
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In subsequent explanations by spokespersons for the Department of Immigrat-
ion and Ethnic Affairs some further clarifications were given:
persons with a serious police record were approved, unless there were
quite exceptional other circumstances involved in the case;
provision was made for persons who arrived after 1 January 1980 and who
were here illegally but who had married either an Australian citizen or
a non-citizen with a legal right of permanent residence;
a similar provision was made for aged parents whose son or daughter ful-
filled the same requirements;
in the case of children, however, while minor children would be considered
in the same way, adult children would not be considered. Of course, if
they were in Australia, they could well have been eligible under ROSP
in their own right, and if they were overseas they could be approved for
Refugees were not affected in any way by ROSP, and Australia's intake
in 1979-80 remained at 14,000 and rose in 1980-81 to 21,000.
(b) The Purposes of ROSP
One purpose of ROSP was to respond to the growing concern about illegals.
Another was the unsatisfactory amnesty measure of 1976 which attempted to reach
illegals. About 8,600 illegals were granted residence through this amnesty.
However, it did not solve the problem, either because it did not induce suf-
ficient illegals to declare themsevles or else, having done that, no mechanisms
were provided to prevent a repetition of their entry. (This is described in
further detail by the author in the Appendix). The Minister introducing ROSP
explained that "Australia faced an increasing problem with prohibited immigrants
particularly since the introduction of the easy visa system in 1973. Amnesties
in 1974 and 1976 had not solved the problem (Press release: 19.6.1980).
In order to strengthen the Government's capacity to deal with illegal
entrants it was decided to introduce legislation which would preclude the
Minister from granting permanent resident status to persons who had flouted
Australian immigration requirements. Effectively, the proposed legislation
was designed to discourage people who entered Australia, legally or illegally,
and then attempted to have their status changed to permanent resident through
representation to the Minister or through members of Parliament. Except for
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certain specific categories, the Minister was to be denied the power to
change a person's tatus, or at least to exercise discretion in this regard.
This meant too that all future amnesties would be effectively prevented.
The Government was well aware of its continually repeated statements after
1976 that there would be no further amnesties. They believed that any expec-
tation of future amnesties was likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thus
ROSP was not considered to be an amnesty since people would not automatically
be given permanent resident status regardless, for instance, of their character.
The Government was very insistent in all of its publicity that ROSP was not
simply another amnesty. Despite this the media generally referred to it as
The previous amnesties had not required legislation. Various Ministers
merely exercised the considerable powers available to them. The removal of
this power meant, in effect, that any future amnesty would require enabling
legislation and the legislative process itself would ercourage illegal entry.
The Minister further intended ROSP to be part of a wider total effort
to eliminate or greatly restrict the movement of illegal immigrants. ROSP
was introduced by stating that there would be other changes to the structure
of the immigrant intake which would make the migration programme acceptable
to the Australian community, particularly the ethnic communities. Thus, at
the time of the announcements of ROSP the Minister made the following comments:
first, he indicated that the Government expected to increase the migrant
intake to 95,000 in 1980/81. He went on to emphasize that Government
policies at the time were intended to attract the skills Australia would
need to meet the economic challenges of the 1980s and which otherwise
would not be available within the Australian population;
to.increase the prospects for Australian residents to reunite with family
to tighten controls in the future against people who flouted Australia's
entry and residence laws;
to give newcomers the opportunity to become self-reliant within the
Australian community through the unprecedented support provided under
the Galbally programme of post-arrival services.
In summing up the Minister claimed, "the Government has weighed all the
factors that make up a responsible immigration programme. The action we have
taken will ensure the correct balance is maintained (Press release 19.6.80).
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It should be pointed out that the Government's offer of amnesty came
at a period when the immigration programme, particularly the structure of
the intake, was under question. On the one hand there were those who were
critical of an increased intake, given the high unemployment in Australia.
There were others who questioned the priorities of the intake, in particular
the ethnic communities strongly urged a much greater proportion for family
reunion. (These issues are well detailed in Birrell and Hay, 1978; and Birrell,
Glezer, Hay and Liffman, 1978).
One of the problems of the Government, therefore, was to allay the fears
of the public stated in the words of one critic as follows: "... in order
to be given preferential treatment in this country, it is first necessary
to break the law. Now we read with great distress about this amnesty and
realise that if we had encouraged my sister-in-law to become an illegal
immigrant she would have a better chance of gaining permanent residence than
she would ever have by trying through legal channels (Ms. Sahota, letter
to Sydney Morning Herald, 22 June 1980).
(c) Why Was There an Amnesty in 1980?
The Government View
We have already referred to the fact that for the Government the purpose
of ROSP was to attempt to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh, more determined
start. Part of the Government's explanation for the existence of a large
number of illegals was the "easy visa" system of 1973-74. Later on the Govern-
ment.became more concerned about the activities of racketeers.
The recognition that the 1976 amnesty had not been a complete success
and that there were still large numbers of illegals in Australia was an im-
portant reason for the 1980 amnesty. One indication of this failure can
be sensed from a breakdown of the applications according to the centre where
they were lodged. The following Table 3 gives the percentages for each capital
city. The most interesting point about these statistics is that in Melbourne,
which had the highest number of immigrants in Australia, the number of illegals
seeking amnesty amounted to only one third of the requests lodged in Sidney,
which had slightly fewer immigrants resident. It is possible that Sydney
had more illegal immigrants but there is no credible hypothesis to support
such a view. Prima facie Table 3 suggests that there remained several thousand
illegals in Melbourne who did not apply for amnesty.
- 14 -
Table 3: Capital cities where 1976 amnesty applications were lodged
Rural areas and smaller towns 4.5
Source: Ministry of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Media Release,
2 February 1976.
Two instances of immigration rackets are worthy of mention. The first con-
cerns the activities of a member of the Australian consulate in Seoul, Republic
of Korea. This person, it was alleged, was falsifying records of work quali-
fications and experience in order to process visas, apparently at an exorbitant
fee. According to some press reports, spokespersons for this ethnic community
estimate .that a majority of ethnic Koreans living in Australia (about 1,000)
are illegals. A second racket concerns Hong Kong residents who obtained
doctored Australian visas in Singapore, again for a large fee. On arrival
in Australia and having completed immigration formalities, the racket organi-
sers apparently collected the passports and returned to Singapore. This left
the illegal immigrants in Australia with only their identity certificates.
There is additional information which suggests that illegal immigrants
were continuing to come to Australia. In its 1980 annual report, the Depart-
ment of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs conceded that
despite the introduction of a statutory visa requirement, which came
into force on 1 November 1979, the number of people carried to Australia
without this documentation remains high. It is hoped that computer
techniques introduced by most airlines at overseas embarkation points
will eliminate this traffic (Review, 1980, p. 5).
Tables 4 and 5 provided in the same report give some idea of the scale
of illegal immigration.
- 15 -
Table 4: Deportation Orders made 1973-80
Deserting Health Failure to Criminal Total
seamen and and comply with
other illegal mental conditions
entrants health of temporary
1973-74 615 3 261 201 1,080
1974-75 606 5 638 166 1,415
1975-76* 396 1 291 128 816
1976-77 550 1 650 205 1,406
1977-78 417 4 1,057 137 1,615
1978-79 396 3 1,220 121 1,740
1979-80 308 4 1,253 128 1,693
* Year of 1976 Amnesty
S Table 5: Deportations carried out 1973-80
Deserting Health Failure to Criminal Total
seamen and and comply with
other illegal mental conditions
entrants health of temporary
i.r74 198 1 81 115 395
1974-75 278 1 230 133 642
1975-76* 163 1 127 118 409
1976-77 296 1 393 114 804
1977-78 277 418 87 782
197P-79 294 1 720 87 1,102
1979-80 188 2 .467 95 752
* Reflecting the amnesty for prohibited immigrants, from 26 January to
30 April 1976
Alongside this data we must include the number of visitors who changed
their status. In August 1980 Dr. M. Cass (spokesperson for the Opposition
on Immigration) asked the following question in Federal Parliament: "How many
visitors to Australia (a) applied for, and (b) received permanent residence
in Australia (in terms of country of citizenship) in each year from 1976 to
The Minister, Mr. I. Macphee, supplied the information provided in Table 6.
Visitors applying and receiving permanent status
Country Applied Approved
1975-6 1976-7 1978-9 1975-6* 1976-7 1978-9
and Ireland 931 721 483 523 709 450
North Europe 873 475 475 595 450 336
South Europe 3,142 1,059 756 2,308 1,104 572
Middle East 935 319 174 684 312 130
North America 598 302 238 397 260 175
South and cen-
tral America 370 113 70 260 123 84
Africa 135 96 74 101 73 74
Asia 3,309 1,410 542 2,762 1,108 747
Oceania 748 201 139 537 301 164
TOTAL 11,041 4,696 2,863 8,067 4,440 2,732
* 1976 Amnesty
Some further information may clarify this table:
of the 3,142 southern Europeans who applied in 1975-76, 1,577 (50%) were
from Greece and 724 (23%) were from Italy;
of the 873 northern Europeans, 161 (18.4%) were from the Federal Republic
of Germany, 116 (13.3%) from the Netherlands and 178 (20.4%) from Poland;
in the same period for the middle East, 430 (46%) were from Turkey, 221
(23.6%) from Lebanon and 105 (11.2%) were from Iran;
- 17 -
in all three periods,south Africans accounted for the majority of African
applicants, respectively, 61.5%, 65.6% and 55.4%
the Asian breakdown in 1975-76 was as follows: China 27.1%, Indonesia
19.3%, Hong Kong 13.6%, the Republic of Korea 10% and Malaysia 6.8%;
finally, for the same period, the bulk of the applicants from Oceania
were from Fiji (64.4%) and Tonga (32.2%).
This shows that thousands were seeking to enter or remain in Australia.
The number of applications approved suggests that the Minister's power to change
the status of people once in Australia acted as an incentive.
Further inferences can be drawn from a comparison of the number of people
refused entry or permanent settlement status. Table 7 provides this information
in the form of a refusal/acceptance ratio for selected countries. In toto,
443,650 visitors were issued a visa and 11,882 were refused, giving a ratio
of 0.027. At one end of the scale, practically all Japanese visitors were
admitted (only 13 out of 30,270 were not) while more Syrians were refused entry
as visitors (213) than were admitted (188). Anglo-Saxons and northern Europeans
were least and Asians were most refused. A similar pattern emerges for applica-
tions of permanent settlers;but in this case the entry control procedure is
more strict and the actual ratios are,numerically speaking, much larger. On
average, the ratio is 1.1 (62,006 refusals compared with 57,491 approvals).
Notable variations between the two time series concern Turks, on the one hand,
(who experience a high refusal rate as visitors but an average refusal rate
as settlers) and.Americans and Canadians on the other (they have a very low
refusal rate as visitors but an above average rate as settlers).
The general feature to be noted here is that the rate of refusal varies
for countries and, more significantly, for regions. As we discuss in later
sections, this differential is a source of pressure for illegal migration.
In summary,then, public statements and data provided by the Department
of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs suggest that the main reason for illegal
immigration are (i) the attractiveness of the Australian way of life and (ii)
racketeering. The figures provided on deportation orders issued and carried
out as well as on visitors already in Australia who apply for permanent residence
and on overseas applications for visitor visas and permanent settlement seem
to support the Department's assessment.
- 18 -
on illegal immigrants, asked the following questions: "Who exactly are these
illegals? From where have they come? How are they subdivided by 'variables'
such as sex, age and occupation?"
While most of those actually apprehended are workers, how many of the
illegals are senior citizens who have come here just to stay with their
children? Their presence, even if illegal, contributes substantially
to the wellbeing of many migrant families and the support given by them
to working parents cannot easily be put aside.
It is a well known fact that for certain ethnic groups, the administrat-
ion of the Australian Government family reunion policy presents areas
of deep concern because of the delays and complexities of procedures in
processing applications. To understand the real situation of illegal
immigrants in this country, it is essential to know how many of them are
dependent, aged or permanently disabled relatives and how many are healthy
wage-earners. But unfortunately we have no data and therefore all the
debate remains on unsubstantiated presumptions (Bertelli, 1979).
Walter Lippman, Chairman of the ethnic Communities Council in Victoria,
added another dimension to the same theme:
We also know that many family reunion applications are rejected or not
even assessed under current guidelines, causing disappointment, frustrat-
ion and even despair among Australia's immigrant population. It is also
well known in that section of our population that rejected applicants
for. family reunion find it difficult, if not impossible, even to gain
subsequent permission to visit their relatives in Australia. This arises,
of course, from the suspicion supported by the evidence of a number
of such incidents that once in Australia they may overstay their visitors
visa or seek to change their status. The few, but growing number of
such cases which have been publicised in the press are but the tip of
the iceberg of people whose efforts to be reunited with members of their
families were frustrated, but whose feelings of family bonds and respon-
sibilities drive them to the desperate step of seeking to evade the cur-
rent restrictions, thus exposing themselves to the danger of being "illegal"
immigrants. The variety of frustrated family reunion cases is immense
(Lippman, 1979, p. 45).
(d) ROSP and Politics
As regards the timing of the amnesty, it would appear from official
sources that planning for ROSP began about January 1980. The Minister res-
ponsible for ROSP, Mr. I. Macphee, was appointed in December 1979. This means
that, allowing for the Christmas break, the decision to proceed with an amnesty
must have been taken right away.
- 19 -
Table 7: Ratio of refusal for every acceptance of short-term visitors
and long-term settlers.
Federal Republic of Germany
Applications for permanent
settlement July 1980-Feb. 1981
Source:. Hansard, 10 June 1981
The "mopping up raids" on illegals carried out by the Department and the
Commonwealth police in the years 1977-1980 publically focused on illegal Asians
and Pacific Islanders. The media reports about such raids highlighted the ethnic
backgrounds of those "caught".
The DIEA stated recently:
Increased aircraft carrying capacity, the introduction of lower international
air fares and the continuing attractiveness of Australia to nationals of
many countries as a place to live or to visit contributed to growth in the
number of passengers passing through immigration control at entry and departure
points (DIEA, 1980, p. 59).
The Migrant View
Spokespersons from the ethnic communities offer other reasons. For example,
Lidio Bertelli (now with the Catholic Intercultural Resource Centre) in an article
- 20 -
The previous Minister, Mr. M. MacKellar, had consistently stated that there
would be no more amnesties. It would have been almost impossible for him to
have introduced ROSP. This explanation, therefore, would suggest that the
Government took advantage of a cabinet reshuffle or even instigated changes
in portfolios for this purpose. Much of this is highly speculative. However,
if the official sources are accurate, the decision to hold an amnesty must
have been associated with the new Minister, if not actually initiated by him.
An alternative explanation put forward by the Opposition was that the
Government had "stolen" the policy of the Labour Opposition. Dr. M. Cass of
the Labour Opposition was to present a new immigration policy on 23 June. It
was to include reference to an amnesty. The announcement of ROSP was made
on 19 June. The press reported that Labour members believedthat there had
been a leak, while others attributed it to the degree of bi-partisanship which
prevailed on immigration policy.
Dr. Cass, in his regular newsletter, expressed the following sentiments:
The latest statement from the Minister, Mr. MacPhee, makes the claim that
the Amnesty had been "carefully put together over some months".
I find that a little puzzling.
First, in April of this year, the Minister was reluctant to promise another
amnesty. Then, on the 31st May, that is, less than 3 weeks before it
was announced, a senior officer of the Department a First Assistant
Secretary, no less said quite unequivocally at a meeting at which one
of my assistants was present, that no decision had been made to declare
an amnesty. Finally, the information I have is that as late as Wednesday,
18th June, the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs was immersed
in hectic activity. "You can't call them, or talk to anyone", I was told.
Why? Preparation of the Amnesty package was in process. This of course
explains why the Government has been caught "with its pants down" as the
Prime Minister is so fond of saying. Government offices are close to
running out of forms. Officers have had to be re-deployed simply to cope
with the flood of applicants. The Government's decision was NOT in pre-
paration for "some months" it was a last minute do-or-die decision
finalised hours before it was published by telex.
The telexes were despatched to newspaper editors less than 12 hours before
the 9 o'clock Press Conference on the morning of Thursday, 19-t of June,
The Government knew Labour was about to announce its initiatives, including
our manesty and, having no otherwise substantial policies of their own,
the Liberals had to come up with something dramatic very quickly (Cass,
- 21 -
It seems unlikely to us that the Government made its decision about an
amnesty on the spur of the moment. Further, the secrecy of the Government
does not point to a lateness of decision. Rather it is altogether reasonable
that, if an amnesty was being planned, there should be no advance knowledge
of it. In fact, it could be argued that the surprise announcement of ROSP
was to the credit of the DIEA and the Minister. Unlike the Canadian situa-
tion (North, 1979), the Government did not have to introduce legislation
for ROSP, the Minister's discretion under the Migration Act was sufficient.
In this respect the Australian Government had, we believe, a considerable
While the decision to declare an amnesty may not have been prompted
by Labour's proposal, there may be some truth in the charge that the timing
of the announcement was influenced by Labour's action. It is difficult
to believe that 19 June was a date fixed for months.
In the final analysis the implementation of ROSP was not substantially
affected by the rush to announce it. Certainly, there appeared to be chaos
in the first few days of ROSP, with forms unavailable and some matters
unclear; but some of this may have been inevitable given the need to act
(e) Legal Status of Future Prohibited Migrants
The following remarks are an attempt to clarify the legal situation
of future illegal migrants in Australia. It should be pointed out that
definitive interpretation of legislation can only be made by the courts
and the following should be taken as a layperson's guide to the general
thrust of the law.
Under the Migration Act 1958-73 as it stood at the time of ROSP, the
Minister had power to vary the status of immigrants while in Australia.
In part the Act reads:
6. (1) An immigrant who, not being the holder of an entry permit that
is in force, enters Australia thereupon becomes a prohibited immigrant.
6. (5) An entry permit may be granted to an immigrant before he enters
Australia or after he has entered Australia...
Subsequent to ROSe, section 6 of the Migration Act 1958-73 was amended
to ensure that an entry permit could only be granted after entry to Australia
under Special conditions. The Migration Amendment Act (No. 2) 1980 now
6A. (1) An entry permit shall not be granted to an immigrant after
his entry into Australia unless one or more of the following conditions
is fulfilled in respect of him, that is to say -
(a) he has been grated, by instrument under the hand of a Minister,
territorial asylum in Australia;
(b) he is the spouse, child or aged parent of an Australian citizen
or of the holder of an entry permit;
(c) he is the holder of a temporary entry permit which is in force
and the Minister has determined, by instrument in writing, that
he has the status of refugee within the meaning of the Convention
relating to the Status of Refugees that was done at Geneva on
28 July 1951 or of the Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees
that was done at New York on 31 January, 1967;
(d) he is the holder of a temporary entry permit which is in force,
is authorised to work in Australia and is not a prescribed immigrant;
(e) he is the holder of a temporary entry permit which is in force
and there are strong compassionate or humanitarian grounds for
the grant of an entry permit to him.
To prevent misinterpretation of subparagraph (d) with a view to obtaining
change of status, section 6A.(4)(c)(i) of the Migration Amendment Act (No. 2)
1980 points out that
a reference to a prescribed immigrant shall be read as a reference to
the holder of a temporary entry permit who, in connection with his
application, or last application, for a visa in respect of his travel
to Australia acknowledged, in writing, that he understood and accepted
that he would leave Australia on the completion of his studies or training
Section 6A, subparagraph (c) on refugees appears to allow considerable
discretion to a Minister if a person legally arrives in Australia. However,
these amendments quite clearly prevent the change of status of immigrants
who enter Australia illegally or who, having entered Australia legally,
have overstayed their visa.
- 23 -
This means that, for future amnesties, legislation empowering a Minister
would have to be passed by the two Houses of Parliament. This has been taken
to mean that such amnesties would be impractical. However, experience in other
countries has shown that amnesties requiring legislation can be conducted effec-
(f). The Implementation of ROSP
Much of this has been touched on in earlier parts of this section. The
processes adopted to implement ROSP can be briefly summarised, largely on the
basis of official media releases from the Department and the Minister and from
our interviews with these officials.
Having decided on ROSP for reasons outlined in earlier sections, a small
group of four senior DIEA officers were brought together in January 1980 to
plan this project. Only four people were involved to stop any leaks about a
coming amnesty and to prevent people rushing to Australia illegally in order
to benefit from such amnesty.
Because of these suspicions, the actual conditions of ROSP.came as something
of a surprise to both the Australian public and other DIEA officers (who had
to administer the scheme) when announced by the Minister of 19 June. The Minister
announced this ROSP as part of a wider package of other immigration measures
(to increase migrant intakes on the basis of skills, refugee and family reunion
Because of the secrecy in planning, there were few forms, offices or offi-
cers briefed by the time first enquiries started coming in on 20 June.
Following the initial announcement, an extensive publicity campaign began
to explain the terms and conditions of ROSP. Around $ 100,000 seems to have
been spent on this campaign. The Government broadcasting service provided con-
tinual free advertising. This was considerably less than the $ 2 million used
by the Canadian Government in its 1973 amnesty (North, 1979, p. 15). There
was a variety of ways adopted to make sure that news of the amnesty reached
all sectors. Methods employed included:
- the setting up of a publicity implementation group;
- 24 -
numerous press releases on the current state of ROSP,which included human
interest stories, statistics and reminders;
continual briefings with both Australian and ethnic media (newspapers,
TV, radio, journals) including talkback programmes, documentaries and so
the development of a ROSP newsletter and ROSP publicity posters that were
distributed over the whole of Australia;
the use of advertisements in Australian and ethnic media (translated into
briefings with many unions, employer groups, local councils and other com-
munity based organizations;
considerable briefings with ethnic community leaders.
All releases, briefings, publicity tried to use facts, ethnic endorsement,
human interest stories and humour to get the message across. As we will show
in our evaluation, we believe that in general this publicity campaign was success-
ful. The majority of persons in Australia would have heard about ROSP before
the deadline of 31 December. We believe that most would have understood who
was and who was not eligible. There were some initial confusions due to problems
of translation, especially over dates of eligibility. Other initial problems
were due to the suddenness of announcements, but generally the extent of publi-
city over nearly 6 months clarified any of these misunderstandings.
After the amnesty was announced, each State Immigration Department set
up offices to interview potential applicants. Initially, as stated, there were
no offices and not enough officers or forms to handle these applicants. Staff
had to interview applicants, check their health and character and send all de-
tails to the central officers in Canberra who would make the final judgement
as to whether or not the applicant should receive amnesty. This decreased pos-
sibilities of corruption but meant that the process was often slow and, depending
on the amounts of checks required, could take over a year to complete.
In the case of Sydney, which received the greatest number of applicants,
there were too few staff and too few doctors to process the applications.
As a consequence, some applicants may have to wait up to 18 months to be notified
as to whether their application for ROSP has been approved. Throughout thetotal
process no publicised system of appeal was established.
- 25 -
IV. EVALUATION OF ROSP
The success or failure of an amnesty or regularisation of status pro-
gramme may be judged by a variety of criteria.
For our purposes, the criteria we are concerned with are:
the reaction of the Australian population as expressed for Australian
born in the media, for overseas born as expressed in ethnic media
and through representatives of "grass-roots" ethnic organizations;
analysis of "illegals" who in fact accepted the amnesty comparing
their social characteristics with the wider Australian population
andlegal settler arrivals;
analysis of the post-ROSP situation to discern if the objectives of
ROSP have in fact been achieved and the underlying reasons and problems
have been removed.
(a) Community Reaction
(1) The Australian media
In the absence of any formal data, we have assumed that a fair measure
of the general Australian community reaction might be found by an examinat-
ion of the Australian press. The Australian Parliamentary Library provided
us with most of the press clippings used in this review.
Subjectively we believe that there was very little interest or knowledge
about ROSP among the general public. This is not a criticism of the publi-
city about the programme, but rather a comment on the perceived lack of
relevance for most people. It is also an indication that its announcement
did not arouse controversy.
The Australian media gave strong support to the programme. Over a
period of time favourable mention was made about the criteria for ROSP.
With a few exceptions, the Press did not qualify its Support for the
Government's objectives, The following is a sample of the prevailing atti-
- 26 -
The Advertiser (Adelaide) opened its editorial on 2 January 1981 as follows:
"The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is well entitled to regard
the amnesty programme for illegal migrants which ended on December 31 as
a success... The Federal Government acted wisely both in providing the
amnesty opportunity that has now ended and in declaring it to be the last.
The exercise will regularise the status of many who will prove useful
and loyal citizens, despite the illegality concerning their initial arrival
in the country."
The Sydney Morning Herald (23 June 1980) claimed that:
"The amnesty he (Mr. Macphee) has granted to an estimated 60,000 illegal
immigrants is an attempt to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh, more
determined start. The amnesty is a humane gesture which will allow illegal
immigrants to emerge from what for many has been a ghetto existence in
which they have been prey to exploitation ... All in all, Mr. Macphee
has reacted sensibly to a difficult problem, and deserves the fullest
support, especially of ethnic communities, for his efforts to overcome
The Age (Melbourne, 23 June 1980) also shortly after the announcement
of ROSP gave its support:
"The Government's decision to grant a second amnesty is humane and realistic.
It will mean that thousands of people who have been leading secret and
clandestine lives will be free to come out into the open and declare them-
selves. There are advantages in this for everyone the community and
the Government as well as the individuals concerned."
As well as general support, the press also saw some tangible benefits
for Government departments. The Advertiser (23 June 1980) believed that "It
is likely also to have provided authorities with valuable information about
how those who have chosen to come forward managed to get here, and possibly
how they managed to escape detection."
The Sydney Morning Herald (23 June 1980) speculated that ROSP "may also
yield information to help root out racketeering." This paper was particularly
concerned that the incidence of illegal immigration had reached disturbing
proportions and had "provided rich opportunities for callous racketeering."
The reasons for the support are not hard to find. The problem of illegal
immigrants was well recognized and something had to be done about it. It would
seem that, if governments plan to implement a crackdown of abuses, it is best
to.call an amnesty and make a new beginning. That approach both avoids charges
of callousness to many illegals who over time in fact become good citizens,
and it gains the support of those who want to see the loopholes closed. In
short, the amnesty was necessary and the actual terms of it were reasonable.
- 27 -
ROSP in fact had bi-partisan political support. We have already referred
to the belief by the Labour Party that the Government had implemented its policy.
The other minor party in Parliament, the Australian Democrats, issued a state-
ment which said, in part:
The Australian Democrats commend the Government's amnesty for overseas
visitors who have over-stayed their visas, and others who are illegally
residing here. This is a humane action which will free many people from
fear, insecurity, and the risk of being exploited.
One of the strengthsof ROSP was the acceptance that it would be the last
amnesty. It is universally thought that the possibilities of amnesties become
self-fulfilling promises. The Government was somewhat embarrassed by the fact
that after its 1976 amnesty it had consistently and strongly declared that there
would be no more amnesties. So embarrassing was this that ROSP was described
by the Government not to be an amnesty, presumably on the grounds that only
certain categories of persons were eligible. Perhaps because of this the Govern-
ment found it necessary to promise legislation which would be seen to prevent
future amnesties. This had the strong support of the press. The following
statements give a good indication of the mood of the Australian community in
this regard. The Australian of 3 January 1981 wrote:
There were obvious merits also in the "amnesty" decision to stress that
this was a last-chance proposition. If the impression were to gain ground
that there was to be an unending series of similar amnesty offers in future
this could have amounted almost to a positive encouragement to people from
other countries contemplating taking the risk of illegal entry to Australia.
The incentive to seek permanent residence in a country such as ours, where
the living conditions and opportunities must surely be envied by many others,
is considerable. It is only to be expected that there will be many more
who, unable to meet our immigration requirements, will attempt to come
here illegally. The latest amendments to the Migration Act will make
that process more difficult and hazardous. It is right that they should
do so, because it is essential that the Government should maintain as
effective control as possible over the flow of immigrants.
The Age (23 June 1980) made a similar point:
For the Government there is a real dilemma here. While it wants to tidy
up a very untidy situation in a humane way it cannot afford to be seen
as "soft" on backdoor migration, particularly when there are so many
other would-be migrants with better qualifications who are rejected for
one reason or another. Yet there is the danger that the announcement of
an amnesty will encourage more people to take the gamble of entering the
- 28 -
country illegally or staying on when their temporary visas have expired.
Firm declarations that the-amnesty offer is the final one, never to be
repeated, have less credibility each time another amnesty is granted.
Our review of the Australian media response to ROSP indicates widespread
support for the aims and conditions of ROSP. The whole programme seemed to
be remarkably free from wide public controversy (compared with the experience
of the United States, for example), and it is generally considered to have
been a success.
(2) Ethnic Community Reaction: The Ethnic Press
We have assumed that the views of the ethnic press are more or less re-
presentative of ethnic community opinion. This survey of ethnic press opinion
was made possible by the use of the Australian Government's weekly review
entitled "From the Ethnic Press". This review summarises in English a selec-
tion of items, mainly news and editorial opinions from Australia's foreign
Amost all of the comments of the ethnic papers were extremely favourable
to ROSP and, in general, endorsed it. In some cases the papers argued that
they had been advocating an amnesty for a number of years. To a large extent.
the response of the ethnic press was crucial to the success of ROSP and the
Minister must have.been delighted that the Government's offer was accepted
at face value.
Two noteworthy aspects of the response of the ethnic press were the broad
spectrum of support and the generally unqualified enthusiasm. The following
comments give an indication of the views.
The Hellenic Herald stated that illegal migrants can now apply for resi-
dent status without fear of deportation and that
in almost all cases, the application will be approved ... Many times in
the past we have suggested that an amnesty should be granted to illegal
but law-abiding migrants. The reasons for the amnesty ... are humani-
tarian and aim to put an end to the exploitation of illegal migrants ...
Our paper supports the new policy and expresses the hope that it will
be extended to other areas, such as a higher intake of Southern European
migrants and the facilitation of family reunion.
Nea Patrida stated:
Mr. Macphee spoke with absolute sincerity. We are totally convinced of
- 29 -
the Government's intentions to help migrants become legal citizens and
this is why we exhort illegal migrants to come forward and lodge an
application for resident status by 31.12.1980.
This useful and humane action by the Federal Government will help many
illegal migrants to sort out their position without hesitation or fear.
The Arabic El Telegraph wrote thanking the Minister and his Department
for an initiative which would result in "peace of mind for a lot of people".
And the Maltese Herald:
We cannot .see any deceit in this offer of amnesty and believe it is a
genuine and sincere offer.
There were, however, some qualifications to this support which, while
they did not affect the support of the papers, indicated some of the thoughts
in the back of the editors' minds.
Neos Kosmos, in its editorial stated that ROSP was:an action we have
supported for years ... we are satisfied that the Federal Government,
after much hesitation and indecision and with some delay, has made the
right decision. We would have preferred, however, that the amnesty's
announcement had not been accompanied by threats which tend to produce
fear in many illegals and which may make them decide to stay in hiding
Other papers, such as Nea Patrida, in praising the Government, warned
that steps had to be taken to crack down on unscrupulous importers of migrants.
In a slightly different vein,the Acropolis warned that the amnesty "might
encourage many people in different countries to attempt to enter Australia
illegally in the hope that at some time in the future they may be granted
amnesty;." Therefore, while it congratulated the Government on "taking this
humane step" it urged it to pass severe laws to prevent future illegal migrat-
II Globo also supported ROSP unconditionally and drew attention to previous
"inhumane deportations of migrants with an Australian spouse or of parents
with children born in Australia."
Another type of qualification was used by Wiadomosci Polskie which,
perhaps in an attempt to support ROSP, urged its readers to apply quickly
because "usually the first-applications are dealt with positively in order
not to discourage other candidates."
- 30 -
Perhaps the most serious suspicion on the part of editors was the possibi-
lity that ROSP was a vote-catching exercise. Several papers raised this. Thus
Saot-el-Moughtareb drew attention to the various pronouncements coming from
both Government and Opposition, promising concessions to the migrant communities,
which "have the one aim of winning the migrant vote in an election year". The
paper nevertheless, on its initiative, published a coupon to help its Arabic
Nea Poreia sounded a sour note on the same theme. It commented: "It is
obvious that the motives leading to the illegal migrants' amnesty were 'vote-
solliciting' and not sympathy or concern for the illegals."
Extra Informativo put this point in the best perspective. It claimed that
the Spanish-speaking community has received the news with happiness. It conti-
Illegal residents must trust the Government authorities. Nobody is trying
to "catch" them so they can be deported. That is not the style in this
country. There are many who say that the Federal Government has granted
this amnesty as an electoral trick, because of this year's elections.
Maybe that is true, but it does not matter. It is more important to know
that a few hundred people ... who speak our language and who come from
our countries will sleep peacefully tonight.
Finally, one paper, Yorum, reporting on the statement of the Prime Minister
(Mr..M. Fraser) that ROSP was not a trap, launched an attack on the Government:
Australians and immigrants alike doubt Mr. Fraser to the extent that it
would be no surprise to them if Mr. Fraser really did set a trap. Or is
it perhaps that Mr. Fraser thinks his people would not consider him capable
of setting a trap for them.
In conclusion, it should be reiterated that the overwhelming majority opinion
was in favour of ROSP. The above quotations, in an attempt to convey something
of the range of opinions, has-perhaps given undue weight to negative views.
The major papers of the larger communities were all in favour, and in the end
it was this view which prevailed.
(3) The Response of the Ethnic Community: Ethnic Organisations
We also attempted to gauge the response of various sectors of the Australian
community to ROSP by sending a questionnaire checklist to a range of ethnically-
based community agencies working in Melbourne. Twenty eight agencies were selec-
ted from members of a co-ordinating body, the Ethnic Communities Council of
Victoria. There were thirteen full responses; eight replies saying they felt
- 31 -
ROSP did not directly apply to them; and seven responses remained without
The thirteen organizations that responded were the Maltese Association,
the Australian German Welfare Association, the Australian Greek Welfare, the
Greek-Cypriot Association, the Australian Jewish Welfare, the Federation of
Italian Immigrant Workers and their Families and the Ecumenical Migration
Centre (representing concerns of immigrants of European origin), the Khmer
Association, the Indo-Chinese Refugee Association, the Australian Cultural
Turkish Association, the Australian Chinese Fellowship, the Aust-Sri Lankan
Association and the Australian Fiji Association (representing immigrants from
Asia and the Pacific).
These organizations responded to questions about the extent to which
members of the community applied for amnesty; what they thought of ROSP; what
they thought were the reasons for illegal immigration to Australia; their
views on whether ROSP had solved any of these problems; and their views as
to how they thought ROSP might have been improved.
We now present the responses in the same order as questions were asked,
noting any responses of particular interest. This will be followed by a sum-
mary of some of the key points to emerge from the survey.
Table 8: What Proportion of Illegals of Your Community Applied for
Extent of number of Ethnc
No idea 5 Greek/Cypriot/German/Maltese/
between 1-20 % 2 Fiji/Indo-Chinese
between 21-50 % 2 Jewish/Italian
between 51-80 % 2 Khmer/Sri Lanka
between 81-100% 2 Turkish/Chinese
Older established groups had little idea as to the response rate of
"illegals" in their community. Fijian and Indo-Chinese associations stated
only a few "eligibles" applied compared with the Sri-Lankan, Turkish and
Chinese association which stated that large proportions applied.
- 32 -
Table 9: Stated Main Reasons for Illegal Immigration to Australia
Number of responses
To join relatives in Australia
(non-recognition of extended family) 9
Because conditions of entry are too restrictive 8
For financial/economic reasons 7
To get a better quality of life 5
To avoid military service 3
To get education for children 2
To cut short waiting time for migration 2
Because not free in country of origin 1
To avoid paying mainterace 1
N.B. Each organisation could.give more than one response
to this question
The three major reasons given as t why there had been illegal immigration
to Australia were (i) to join family already resident in Australia (especially
by more distant kin, not eligible under then existing migration guidelines);
(ii) to obtain better economic opportunities for themselves and their families;
and (iii) to avoid restrictive immigration requirements. Some minor reasons
(such as to avoid military service) were also offered as possible reasons.
Table 10: Why Didn't All Eligible Persons Apply for ROSP?
Number of responses
Fear (of deportation, etc.), Lack of trust 10
Ignorance of official procedures 2
Language difficulties 2
Criminal record 1
N.B. Multiple responses possible
- 33 -
Nearly all groups mentioned "fear and/or lack of trust" of Government
intentions as the major reason people did not apply. Very few mentioned ig-
norance of ROSP, language problems, individual criminal records or tax evasion
as reason for not applying.
Table 11: What Were the Government's Purposes in Having ROSP?
Reasons given Number of responses
To find out numbers of illegals in Australia 8
To change law to make entry stricter 5
To regulate changes of law 5
To save deportation/inspection costs 2
To get ethnic vote 2
To identify/alleviate problems of illegals 2
N.B. Multiple responses possible
Major reasons given, largely by Asian/Pacific groups, were "to find out
numbers/whereabouts of illegals" in Australia. Other groups (mainly longer-
established Europeans) said this was done prior to changing law relating to
illegal entry. Some Asian groups stated this was to "make entry stricter".
Table 12: How Good Was the ROSP Campaign?
Good Fair Poor Total
Publicity 6 (46%) 6 (46%) 1 ( 8%) 13
Translation~ 2 (14%) 6 (46%) 5 (40%) 13
Time period 9 (70%) 2 (15%) 2 (15%) 13
The majority of organizations thought the publicity provided by the DIEA
was good or fair as was the time period given to apply. Many (especially
Turkish, Fijian, Khmer, Sri Lankan groups) stated that their translated mate-
rial was of poor quality and often provided misleading information. There were
- 34 -
a number of comments made about how details as to time periods of eligibility
for amnesty were misleading. Minority groups were especially upset about
lack of clarity of translations and the fact that they were often produced
towards the end of the amnesty period.
Ten groups (75%) stated that they agreed with the terms of the amnesty.
Only four associations (the Turks, Fijians, Chinese and Indo-Chinese) said
they disagreed the terms were restrictive and should have covered students
or lacked human dignity.
Ten associations (75%) said the overall aims/terms were well explained.
Four groups (Turks, Khmers, EM Centre, Indo-Chinese) said that "some conditions/
criteria were not well explained" or "some were misleading in translations".
The same distinctions were found when asked "How well were these terms/
conditions understood by members of your community?"
Five organizations (38%) said they were satisfied with the way the DIEA
carried out the amnesty;. two said they were not; and six said they weren't
sure. Turks, Indo-Chinese and other Asian groups complained about Departmental
inefficiencies in getting adequate translations done; that DIEA officers
were often patronizing in attitude; and did not do enough to alleviate understan-
dable fears and suspicions of illegal residents.
Eight groups (61%) said that ROSP gave previously illegals greater rights
and dignity by permitting them to legalise their status. This allowed
them "greater freedom" and "relieved personal worries". Respondents gave
a much wider range of bad points, ranging from poor translations of minority
languages, lack of clarity as to times of eligibility, lack of clarity over
what is meant by terms such as "having good character" or a "criminal record"
(the range of criteria was insufficiently specified). Others stated that
students should not have been excluded. A number of groups complained about
the attitude of DIEA officials saying they were often patronizing and did
not explain to them thoroughly enough the precise terms of ROSP.
All respondents except one stated that there should be another amnesty.
Most stated this would need to have all terms clearly and precisely outlined,
adequately translated and checked by community-based organizations. Conditions
such as criminal record limitations need to be precisely specified. The only
- 35 -
organisation to say that there should not be another amnesty was the German
Welfare Society, which said this would only encourage more and more illegal
All respondents stated that the underlying reasons for illegal immigration
had not been resolved because Australia is an attractive country for people
to live in. While restrictive immigration policies exist, there will always
be people.who cannot enter legally under such policies and will resort to
Table 13: How 1980 ROSP Could Have Been More Effective
Suggestions Number of responses
Closer liaison between DIEA and ethnic organizations 8
More accurate translations 7
Provide funds to ethnic agencies to assist,cross-
check translations, etc. 6
Training of officials in how to communicate with
relevant people 4
Develop ways to speed up processing of applications 4
N.B. Multiple responses possible
Most of these suggestions came from the smaller minority groups of Asian
and Pacific region origins.
Apart from the suggestions listed in Table 13 a number of .other suggestions
were specifically made with regard to the lessons that might be drawn from
the Australian experience. These included:
to communicate with all groups in their own relevant languages (not ancient
Greek, for example). This requires clear, accurate translations, cross-
checked by various ethnic associations;
to work closely with grass-roots based ethnic organizations;
to think carefully (and perhaps pilot test) about how best to clearly
and precisely state conditions of eligibility before translating materials,
with illustrative examples;
to provide for an initial period of discussion .with ethnic organizations
when amnesty measures are contemplated;
- 36 -
to train administrative officials in order to sensitize them to some
possible responses of different illegals of various ethnic backgrounds.
These final suggestions represent well the ethnic organizations' responses
to the 1980 ROSP. At a general level, most believed it was a useful and neces-
sary action. They thought it was adequately handled but there were still a
number of problems which they believed were largely due to lack of involvement
of their "grass-roots" experience such as the lack of clarity in specifying
criteria for applying for amnesty, which were intensified by sometimes poor
translations of material. This was particularly the view of representatives
of Asian and Pacific regional organizations.
(b) Characteristics of Applicants for Amnesty
Analysis has been carried out on some 2,003 files of persons who had applied
and been accepted for ROSP at the Melbourne office (as of 30 June 1981). Only
one person had been refused amnesty, on the grounds of having committee a serious
criminal offence prior to entry in Australia. We will compare the social charac-
teristics of those applying for amnesty with those of settlers arriving in the
same period and of the total Australian population.
(1) Sex Distribution
Of persons applying for ROSP, about three quarters (73%) were males and
one quarter (27%)..were females. This imbalance stands in marked contrast to
the general population (which is almost exactly 50% 50%) and to the general
pattern of settler arrivals. Perusal of data in Immigration Consolidated Statis-
tics for recent years show no imbalance for permanent settlers; for all arrivals
there is only a slight imbalance of males to females. For example, in 1976-1977,
of all arrivals 52.2% were male and 47.8% were female.
(2) Age distribution
The following age range of applicants for ROSP was found: 1.8% were aged 61
years or more; 16.0% were aged between 41 and 60; 21.1% were aged between 31
and 40; 54.8% were aged between 21 and 30; 5.2 were aged between 18 and 21;
1.1%.were aged less than 18 years. There were very few persons normally referred
to as dependantss" (i.e. either the aged or young) who applied for ROSP. Some
75 per cent were aged between 21 and 40.
- 37 -
This age structure is significantly younger than that of the Australian
population of the State of Victoria or of settler arrivals, as can be seen
from Table 14.
Table 14: Age Structure of Adult ROSP Applicants (aged 21 or more) -compared
to Adult Settler Migrants and General Victorian Population (per cent)
Age range ROSP applicants Settler migrants General Victorian
(1978-79) population (.1978-79)
21 30 55.0 44.0 26.8
31 40 26.5 26.7 20.5
41 50 9.0 11.1 17.6
51 60 6.2 7.2 15.9
Over 61 .3.3 11.0 19.2
TOTAL 100.0 100.0 100.0
In the younger age groups (i.e. 21-40) the proportions of males to females
is almost identical for ROSP applicants and settler arrivals. However, among
the over 60 year olds there is a preponderance of women (40% male,. 60% female)
due mainly to higher proportions of widows to widowers.
Persons from 72 countries applied. For ease of examination we have grouped
applicants into broad regions which we have then compared with 1978 arrival
patterns and general Australian population figures -(see Table 15).
Among other things.this table indicates that the region producing the
highest population of ROSP applicants was Asia. This is not entirely unexpected
when one notes that 33% of settler arrivals in 1979 were of Asian origin, although
this is a recent. phenomenon (persons of Asian origin accounted for only 6.5%
of the total Australian population in 1979). This regional comparison, however,
masks some important differences. For example, among the Asian ROSP applicants
some 23% were from Malaysia, 10% from Viet Nam, 10% from India and Sri Lanka,
11% from Indonesia, 8% from Hong Kong and 5% from the Philippines. In compari-
son, when we look at the birthplace of settler arrivals in 1979, only 6% were
- 38 -
Birthplace of ROSP Applican
and Settlers Arrivals, 1979
Birthplace ROSP Applicants Australian Settler
Number % % %
United Kingdom and
Ireland 360 18.1 40.0 18.9
N. & W. Europe 97 4.9 8.8 4.2
East Europe 183 9.2 11.6 4.7
South Europe 238 11.9 19.2 3.8
Middle East 112 5.6 2.9 2.7
Asia 752 38.1 6.5 33.2
North America 99 4.9 1.7 2.8
Central & South America 45 2.3 1.5 2.9
Africa 29 1.4 2.7 5.5
Oceania (incl. NZ) 66 3.3 5.2 21.2
TOTAL 2,003 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
were from Malaysia, i.e. one quarter of their proportion among ROSP applicants.
The Philippines produced a higher proportion of settlers (6.2%) than ROSP
applicants, while India's proportion of settlers (4.6%) was roughly half of the
proportion of applicants. Indonesia presents a striking contrast: it supplies
a mere 1.5% of Asian settlers, but 10.6% of Asian applicants. Viet Nam accounted
for about half the Asian settlers, largely because of Australia's refugee intake,
which distorts the picture to some extent. Applicants from Hong Kong were more
than double their proportions among settlers (3.5%). In summary, then, Asians
were more heavily represented among ROSP applicants than their proportion among
settlers would have suggested. Applicants were more likely to come from
Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
The United Kingdom and Ireland accounted for almost a fifth of all ROSP
applicants, and this was approximately the same proportion as their settlement
rate. However, this rate was lower than the longer term rate of migrants from
these two countries. The same point could be made of applicants from north
and west Europe.
- 39 -
In the case of east European and Middle Eastern groups, we find that the
number of applicants under ROSP is approximately double the number of 1979
settlers. This is especially significant in the case of the Middle East,
given the relatively low proportion in the general population. We will examine
these groups in greater detail below.
In the case of southern Europe, we find over three times the level of
1979 settlers. This at first glance seems surprising, allowing for the fact
that southern European migrants have had a relatively long period of settlement.
It might have been expected that their characteristics would have been similar
to the north Europeans.
North Americans also have a higher rate of ROSP application, though probably
for different reasons than the Asians and east Europeans. Africans have sur-
prisingly low application rate. It may be surmised that black Africans would
find it fairly difficult to enter and remain in Australia illegally, while
white-South Africans would have little difficulty in entering as normal migrant
Oceania presents another special case. Table 15 shows a high level of
migration and a comparatively small illegal movement from Oceania. However
it should be noted that the settler movement comes overwhelmingly from New
Zealand (the Trans-Tasman agreement allows for virtually unrestricted access
and citizenship by New Zealanders). The Sources of illegal migration are almost
entirely (90%) from Tonga and Fiji; both countries have repeatedly complained
about the access of their citizens. Fiji accounted for 1.6% of all ROSP appli-
cants but only 0.6% of settlers in 1979.
.(4) Marital Status
The marital status of ROSP applicants compared with arriving settlers
in 1978-79 is set out in Table 16. The data suggests that the proportion of
married people is lower among ROSP applicants. The disparity among the divor-
ced etc. is particularly marked. As we indicate in a later section, this lends
some support to the view that one of the causes of illegal migration was diffi-
culty with the family reunion of older members of the family.
- 40 -
Table 16: Marital Status
of ROSP Applicants Compared with Settlers
ROSP Applicants Settlers
Number % %
Never married 1,077 53.8 51.9
Married 712 35.6 43.3
Divorced, widowed or separated 212 10.6 4.8
TOTAL 2,001 100.0 100.0
Of the 2,003 applications only 270 (13.5%) included their spouse on the
applications. The number of such applications where children were involved
(8%) is shown in Table 17 (where single parents with children are included
in the data)
Table 17: Children of ROSP Applicants
Number of children Number of Cases %
1 64 39.0
2 60 36.6
3 27 16.5
4 or more 13 7.9
TOTAL 164 100.0
Overall, then, our data suggest that ROSP applicants were more likely to
arrive as single persons or belong to small families. Table 17 suggests that
three quarters of families had no more than two children. While it is not easy
to provide a direct comparison with settler arrivals, available data indicate
that just under half of the settler families were in this category.
(6) Type of Visa Used to Enter Australia
There are various visas issued to enter Australia. The breakdown of visa
status of 2,003 applicants at the time of their approval for status regulari-
sation is provided in Table 18. The three most common visas were temporary
- 41 -
resident permits, visitor visas and family-reunion short-stay visas. Only 5
persons were on a New Zealand visa and only 1.5% visas were issued in New Zealand
for all applicants.
Table 18: Visas Used by ROSP Applicants to
Type of visa Number %
Temporary Resident 537 26.8
Deserter 123 6.1
Stowaway 16 0.8
Transit 29 1.4
Refugee 74 3.7
Visitor 532 26.6
Business 39 1.9
Family Reunion 576 28.8
New Zealand 5 0.2
Other 46 2.3
Not known 26 1.4
TOTAL 2,003 100.0
(7) Why Did Certain Groups Enter Australia Illegally?
One of the questions which we believed this data may throw light on is
why did specific groups enter Australia illegally? This, properly speaking,
could only be answered by the applicants themselves but the following material
is instructive. We have confined ourselves to the geographic groups which entered
Australia in numbers greater than we would have expected. These groups are
east Europeans, southern Europeans, people from the middle East, Asians, north
Americans and Oceanians.
The first question we looked at was how did these groups arrive in Australia.
Table 19 shows the breakdown of groups according to the type of visa. In order
to hazard a guess at the meaning of this material we have made the following
judgements. Persons entering as temporary residents are likely to be people
who would not find it difficult to enter Australia as permanent settlers. Deser-
ters and stowaways suggest people who would be unable to enter Australia as
immigrants (almost all of them are unskilled). Persons overstaying visitor
- 42 -
visas are similarly placed, while people entering for business reasons appear
to have used this permit as a front for migration. We also judge that people
entering for reasons of family reunion are more likely to have been frustrated
by use of the normal channels.
Table 19: Visas of ROSP Applicants by Birthplace (per cent)
East South Middle .North
Europe Europe East America
Temporary resident 8.5 8.4 11.4 16.4 67.6 10.2
Deserter/stowaway 7.6 37.3 11.4 5.7 16.3
Transit 2.4 1.3 2.7 2.0
Refugee 10.1 -
Visitor 9.3 7.8 20.3 43.1 21.1 38.8
Business 3.8 4.4 1.4 -
Family Reunion 72.9 42.8 49.4 13.1 7.0 24.5
New Zealand 0.2 2.0
Other 1.7 1.2 2.5 4.4 2.8 .6.1
TOTAL 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
The north Americans are one group with a high proportion of temporary resi-
dence visas. In line with our judgement about this type of entry we find that
the other groups with a similar high proportion (not included in the Table)
are those applicants from the United Kingdom and Ireland, and from north and
The data also indicate that north Americans are over-represented among
the professional, medical, business and teacher groups and under-represented
among the unskilled groups. They are understandably over-represented among the
entertainment occupations and provide over a third (37.5%) of those entering
with a religious vocation (this occupation is given in the following sub-section
With deserters and transit passengers we find that the southern Europeans
are heavily represented. Well over a third of this group entered Australia
by desertion and they accounted for over half of the 138 cases. Just why this
should be the case is not clear. The majority are unskilled and presumably
are less .likely to be acceptable for entry through legal channels. Perhaps the
- 43 -
dominance of southern Eureopeans is explained by the number of ships with crews
from these countries. We have no evidence for this.
All refugees were Asians and refer to the "boat-people" who landed on
Australia's northern shores.
Visitors amount to 43.1% of Asian applicants. These people accounted for
almost two-thirds of overstayed visitors and more than 1 in 6 of all applicants.
Another group with a high proportion of overstayed visitors were from Oceania.
It is significant that people from both areas would find it relatively difficult
to obtain approval as settlers.
Europeans accounted for a substantial proportion (45.3%) of all entries
for family reunion. In the case of eastern Europeans, this category accounted
for almost three quarters (72.9%) of applicants. Large proportions were also
recorded for southern Europeans and people from the Middle East.
In summary, there would appear to be, from this material, three main reasons
for the presence of illegal immigrants. About a quarter are people who would,
by and large, be acceptable under normal entry criteria. We could categorise
this group as being careless or lazy. Presumably under the old powers available
to the Minister they would have found it easy to change their status. Just over
a third (36.8%) could be classed as people who would find it relatively difficult
to enter Australia by normal means of migration and have therefore chosen to
enter illegally. The third main group are those who may have been frustrated
by family reunion provisions. They have sought to by-pass the regulations.
This supports the claims made by some ethnic communities. The recognition of
this frustration has recently led to changes in the Migration Intake Selection
System, as will be discussed later on.
(8) Year of Arrival
The vast majority had arrived in Australia since 1976. Only 19 people (1%)
had arrived in Australia prior to 1974. 70 people (3.5%) arrived in the years
1974-75. 570 people (28.5%) arrived in the years 1976-77. 1,314 people (65.5%)
arrived in the years 1978-June 1980.
Very few people who applied were in Australia at the time of the 1974 "easy
visa"; the vast majority had arrived after the 1976 amnesty.
- 44 -
(9) Occupations of Applicants
Some 176 different occupations were recorded for these applicants. We
have attempted to collate these into 21 categories, as listed in Table 20.
Table 20: Occupation of ROSP Applicants
Occupation Number %
Labourer 277 15.1
Restaurant 216 11.8
Process worker 194 10.6
Clerical 179 9.8
Tradesmen 128 7.0
Shopkeeper 113 6.2
Engineer 74 4.0
Seaman 72 3.9
Home duties 68 3.7
Business 61 3.3
Farmer/fisherman 61 3.3
Teacher 59 3.2
Student 56 3.1
General 41 2.2
Clothing trade 29 1.6
Entertainment 27 1.5'
Professional 27 1.5
Medical 27 1.5
Armed service 23 1.3
Religious vocation 16 0.9
None 85 4.6
If these were further collapsed into broad socio-economic status positions,
there would be 50% unskilled persons, 15% clerical or lower professionals,
11% skilled persons, 10% not in paid employment (home duties, students, un-
employed), 8% small business/self-employed persons and 6% professional or
- 45 -
Superficial impressions from perusal of computer print-outs suggest high
proportions of Asians involved in restaurant work and as process workers and
labourers, with a small proportion of clerical workers. High proportions of
persons from the middle Eastern region and from southern Europe, eastern Europe
and Oceania would seem to work mainly as labourers or process workers. These
groups are characterized by high numbers of unemployed. Persons from the United
Kingdom, Ireland, western Europe and northern America have higher proportions
of persons involved as professional, clerical workers, teachers and business-
men, compared with other regions.
(c) Immigration Changes since ROSP
As we have mentioned previously, ROSP was considered as one part of a
package of measures to deal with illegal immigrants. In the period following
ROSP a number of policy changes were made. We comment on these changes in order
to reinforce the point that an amnesty by itself is unlikely to be a sufficient
instrument of resolving the wider dilemmas of illegal immigration. Whether
these measures have been adequate or successful is a question we raise in our
We have already drawn attention to the details of changes to the Migration
Act.. Essentially, these changes removed the power of the Minister of Immigration
to change the status of immigrants who either enter Australia illegally or who
have overstayed their visas. It should be pointed out that prior to ROSP more
than three quarters (76.8%) of all representations to the Minister in the years
1979-80 were concerned with permanent residence in Australia, either as a migrant
or as a refugee. The total number of representations during the year was 9,549
(and 7,440 to the Permanent Head of the Department), making heavy demands on
the Minister (DIEA, Review 1980). There is some evidence that some migrants
entered Australia on a temporary visa with the purpose of making a humanitarian
appeal to the Minister. The removal, therefore, of the Minister's power of
discretion to change status after entry to Australia ought to have some effect
on the entry of such visitors.
The Government, after the completion of ROSP, stepped up its deportation
activities. In its 1981-82 Budget an extra $A. 6.5 million was allocated for
increased salary costs associated with the rise indeportation matters. During
- 46 -
the period following ROSP there were a number of highly publicised interceptions
of attempted illegal landings. In some of these cases it was clear that traffickers
were involved attempting to disguise some of the illegals as refugees. The
majority of these people appeared to be Asians. As well as the interception
of boats there were police raids, seemingly staged for the media, on premises
such as restaurants and massage parlours, areas with more than their share of
illegal immigrants. The Minister also signalled his determination not to grant
change of status for special cases. In a celebrated case, a Romanian soccer
player was refused permission to stay in Australia after he had "defected" during
the team's visit.
As a particular instance of the Government's attempt to maintain tighter
control of entry it decided that from 1 July 1981 all persons entering Australia
from New Zealand would be required to carry a passport. The measure was directed
primarily at foreign-born people who pose as Australian or New Zealand citizens.
The problem from the Australian point of view is that, because of New Zealand's
visa abolition agreements with 21 countries, nationals of those countries may
travel to New Zealand without prior screening. In the opinion of the Australian
Government this severely limits New Zealand's capacity to prevent the entry of
undesirable individuals. People can exploit the Trans-Tasman travel arrangement
simply by buying a ticket and claiming on arrival in Australia to be a New Zealand
or Commonwealth citizen. The multi-cultural nature of Australian society faci-
litates much deception. The passport requirement, while not foolproof (for
example, against professional criminals), adds another element of security to
the entry system.
Of a more fundamental nature, the Government introduced, late in 1981,
significant changes to N.U.M.A.S. (Australia's migrant selection system). Most
of the.features of the changes are not directly relevant to our interests. One
important change worth noting is the greater emphasis on family reunion. We
have indicated throughout this report that frustration with family reunion pro-
visions has been a major impetus for illegal entry. These changes followed an
extensive consultative process published by the DIEA in October 1981. Under
the changes, restrictions on working-age parents (irrespective of the number
of children in Australia) will be eased; there will be no age limits for children
who are part of a family unit; non-dependent children and siblings, previously
classified under general eligibility, will now be dealt with under family mi-
gration; and the residence qualifications for sponsors will, in some cases
- 47 -
be reduced. These changes have not been implemented at the time of writing,
so we cannot be sure how successful they will be. On the surface, they give
the impression of a genuine concern for family reunion and presumably, therefore,
will ease some of the pressure to which we have referred.
Another measure has been the introduction of an Immigration Review Panel
to stremaline appeal processes and to provide for a greater sense of fairness.
Under this system, people directly affected by adverse decisions by DIEA may
appeal to the Panel. The process establishes a number of "review rights" or
grounds for appeal. Not all illegal entrants to Australia would be able to
avail themselves of a right of appeal. However, most, if not all of the border-
line cases, the ones which generally give rise to a sense of grievance, would
have a channel of appeal. The Panel has advisory powers only, although in
almost all cases it could be expected that the Minister would accept the advice.
Again, at the time of writing, it is too early to assess the Panel, although
there are aspects of it, such as its composition, which tend to detract from
it. However, taken with the other items mentioned, it is one more step to
a fairer and humanitarian immigration system.
- 48 -
V. CONCLUSIONS, IMPLICATIONS AND LESSONS
ROSP must be evaluated in the wider context in which it developed.
It was initiated in a period of economic change and after a long period of
post-war economic migration "boom". The Minister and his Department were
responsive to such changes. As part of a package it has been their objec-
tive to attempt to increase the migrant intake (from net 50,000 in the mid-
1970s to 100,000 or more in the early 1980s); to attempt to increase the
numbers and range of family reunions; to attempt to attract needed skills;
and to take in a fair proportion of refugees. Other pressures operate to
expand these categories, of course. Employers (public and private) still
require people to do "the less desirable jobs". Australian born and second
generation Australians increasingly refuse to do such work, even in times
of rising unemployment. Skilled migrants are difficult to obtain and, there-
fore, semi-skilled migrants are accepted. ROSP was initiated and implemented
within the context of these wider social, economic and policy changes..For
the Government it was a chance to clarify the "status" of existing illegals
before introducing more restrictive legislation to stop the entry of further
"illegals" and before introducing new, more liberal, selection procedures
for future in-migrants.
Ethnic communities we have talked to had a slightly different perspec-
tive to this official line. Ethnic communities were particularly concerned
to broaden family reunion criteria. Minority ethnic communities (especially
those from countries of Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific) were also
concerned to increase the total intake numbers of people from their countries
to be allowed to both visit and settle in Australia. Data provided in the
analysis of ROSP applicants underline this concern in that high proportions
of persons from these countries want to visit Australia, are often refused
visitor visas, and are over-represented as ROSP applicants.
We believe that it would be particularly important that the Government
and the officials of DIEA would have to make special efforts to get such
ethnic groups and organizations "on their side". That is, if the Government
is concerned to reach "illegal aliens" from Asia and the Pacific, it would
have to overcome built-up suspicions of these groups which are based on
years of a "White Australia Policy", restrictive intake policies from these
areas and highly publicized raids on people from such areas throughout the
- 49 -
1970s. For all these reasons we thought it important to highlight the proces-
ses by which DIEA attempted to implement ROSP and reach these groups.
Our analysis of implementation of ROSP indicated that, as far as the
general Australian community and the more established ethnic groups were
concerned, ROSP was largely successful. These groups supported ROSP and
could find little to criticize. However, for minority groups from regions of
Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East, ROSP was not so successful.
They complained about lack of involvement, poor translations, lack of clarity
of wording and criteria for eligibility, and patronizing attitudes of DIEA
officials. These groups often expressed suspicion of the motives of the Govern-
ment, quoting a number of cases that they believed to be indicative of injustice
in ambiguous areas. They also referred back to the experiences of Ignazio
Salemi. A summary of the case of Ignazio Salemi is provided in the appendix.
This involved an Italian (Mr. Ignazio Salemi) who applied for amnesty in 1976.
Prima facie he met all the criteria of the 1976 amnesty (i.e. he was of good
character, in good health). However he was deported. No public reasons were
given. Seemingly they were political, in that Salemi was a member of the Italian
Communist Party and active in Italian community work in Australia. The case
received high publicity and many ethnic communities still openly talk about
We now turn to consider some of the lessons and implications of the 1980
experience, both for future amnesty possibilities for Australia and for other
In presenting the implications of our review of ROSP and the lessons we
believe this presents for .attempts at any future amnesties, we ought to first
stress the uniqueness of the Australian situation. Australia is unique in
being an island, without sharing any land borders. Any potential illegal resident
must enter via air or ship. We believe that more sophisticated computerised
surveillance methods at ports of entry will limit the possibility of future
entry of unofficial visitors and residents. Similarly, the potential to check
up on overstayed visitors will be greatly enhanced in the near future. In addit-
ion, we believe that the recently announced liberalised family reunion schemes
will largely reduce the pressure on more established ethnic residents (from
Europe) to encourage family members to overstay family reunion visitor visas.
- 50 -
For these reasons we believe that Australia is unlikely to have a great
problem of large numbers of illegal residents in the near future. The most
likely areas of origin of possible future illegal residents are Asia and the
Pacific, given their geographic proximity and Australia's restrictive intakes
from these regions. New surveillance systems and increased deportation powers
under the new Migration Act are likely to act as deterrents to such persons.
The other major fact that ought to be kept in mind by overseas readers
with regard to the Australian situation is the recent changes to the Migration
Act. This means, in effect, that in order for any future regularisation of
status programme or amnesty, there would have to be special legislation enacted
in Parliament. This brings Australia in line with Canada and other overseas
The 1980 ROSP was "sold" largely on the basis that this would be the
last chance for illegal residents to regularise their status. There would
be little likelihood of any future amnesties because of this new requirement
for parliamentary legislation. As our analysis indicates, however, the majority
of groups surveyed stated that the underlying reasons for encouraging people
to enter and live in Australia illegally have not been completely resolved.
Australia is still perceived to be a "lucky country" by many in Asia and the
Pacific. Consequently the majority of ethnic groups surveyed stated that there
will still be a need for future amnesties, even if this will then involve
the introduction of Parliamentary Legislation. Presumably, as in other coun-
tries, the Minister (or others) will be able to introduce a bill stating that
the Government intends to legislate an amnesty for people living illegally
in Australia as at a specific date.
Given such circumstances, the planning period would not need to require
such secrecy as was involved in the 1980 ROSP. Such an amnesty might, therefore,
learn from the 1980 experience. We now turn to some of the lessons of this
The 1980 ROSP does, we believe, provide a number of lessons that might
be useful in the planning of future amnesties, either in Australia and to
some extent in other countries. As North, in his Review of the 1973 Canadian
Running an amnesty programme for an unidentified underground population
is very, very difficult at best; if the Government wants a substantial
response, it will have to devote all the ingenuity and skill it can
muster, plus substantial amounts of leadership, staff, time and money.
A meaningful combination of the stick and the carrot... is useful politically
and operationally. Politically, it helps build a consensus in the
population as a whole; operationally, offering a benefit together with
a threat (of the consequences of not accepting the offer) presumably
raises the level of participation.
The offer should be as simple as possible. It is important to enlist
the maximum sympathetic interest of the press. It is vital to instill
within the agency handling the programme, a sense of high purpose,
of excitement and, if possible, of glamour and joy (North, 1979,pp. 32-33).
On most of those criteria the Australian Government did very well and
we believe the processes the DIEA adopted in these regards are well worth
Our analysis has pointed out certain weaknesses in the 1980 ROSP that
we believe could be overcome, largely by the appropriation of more resources.
In this regard, it should be noted that in the 1973 Canadian amnesty the
Canadian Government spent $ 2 million, which is equivalent to about A.$ 1 mil-
lion, on advertising on a per capital basis. Australia, in 1980, spent about
We consider that the following are possible areas for improvement. Firstly,
there is a need for greater involvement of "grass-roots" ethnic community organi-
sations. We believe this is needed to reach the most difficult "illegal resi-
dents", to provide accurate translations, to sensitize administrators to the
problems (cultural, social and political) of providing literature, interviewing
and counselling services that are clear and unambiguous to all, and to help
overcome lingering fears and doubts of the various ethnic communities and of
their illegal constituents. We therefore believe that the Government ought
to provide resources to such "grass-roots" ethnic organizations to provide the
Secondly, there is need for a more open planning period. After an amnesty
has been established and cut-off dates decided, there should be a period (perhaps
of 2 months) in which pilot runs, surveys, submissions for improvements etc.
are tested to attempt to establish clear, unambiguous criteria, terms and con-
ditions plus clear and unambiguous translations, as well as formal contract
arrangements with ethnic organizations.
Thirdly, a publicized system of appeal needs to be established possibly
in the form of a tribunal of prominent people who would hear problems or cases
of dispute, making these judgements open to public scrutiny.
Finally, some minor improvements might include attempts to provide examples
to illustrate specific criteria or conditions (for instance, statements as
to what constitutes a "serious criminal offence") and some training for DIEA
officials and counter staff, especially when dealing with Asians and Pacific
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AMNESTY EXPERIENCE IN AUSTRALIA: SOME IMPLICATIONS FOR THE U.S.A.1
The United States is again concerned with the issue of "illegal aliens"
or undocumented workers. Leonard F. Chapman Jr., the present Commissioner
for the I.N.S., using an analogy drawn from his 37 years in the military,
refers to these people as perpetrating a "silent invasion". He claims that
there are some six to eight million such "invaders" in the U.S.A. at present
and the number is increasing by up to a million each year. Regardless
as to whether such figures are accurate it is undoubtedly true that there
are large numbers of illegal aliens resident in the U.S. today. Is it also
true, as Keely and Tomasi argue in their work (eg. Migration Today, June,
1976) that controversies over undocumented workers are neither new nor
unique to the United States.
Controversies over illegal immigrants always rise to their height
in times of economic recession. In Australia, as in the U.S., these
controversies were most intense in the depression years of the 1930's;
in the recession years of the early 1950's and early 1960's and from
1972 to the present day. As Keely and Tomasi observe, in times of economic
stability migrants (both legal and clandestine) are viewed as both meeting
the needs of the economy of the host country and relieving the "developmental"
problems of the sending countries. These are not good times, however '
We are only too well aware of the economic recession current in most
industrial/capitalist countries. Countries that only a decade ago were
competing to obtain migrant labour now are concerned with how to "dispose"
of such surplus labour. Competition for employment and resources leads to
conflicts. Governments, unions, bureaucracies need instant solutions.
Scapegoats need to be found. Invariably migrant workers are among the
first of the scapegoats, It doesn't matter if it is Ialians in Germany,
Turks in France, Norwegians in Argentina, Koreans in Japan, Polynesians
in New Zealand, Turks in Australia or Mexicans in the U.S.A. there is a
need to find a quick.solution.
Solutions proposed for this "problem of clandestine workers" include:
deportation, as carried out in the U.S. in the 1920's and has been
behind recent initiatives proposed in Switzerland and other European
countries (though subsequently defeated);
Reprinted with permission of the Center for Migration Studies,
New York, from Migration Today, Vol.V, N01 (January 1977).
Speech to Seattle Rotary Club ( 26.5.1976).
- 54 -
fining of employers who hire illegal immigrants, as proposed in
recent bills introduced in the U.S. by Rodino (H.R. 982) and Kennedy
(S.2643). Such proposals were also accepted by most countries
represented at the recent ILO International Labour Conference (Geneva,
the issuing of Identity Cards which smack of South African type
S the reintroduction of temporary worker programs as proposed by
Senator Eastland for the U.S. (S. 3074) similar to the European
guest workers situation;
the increase of policing services and, of course, budgets as requested
by Commissioner Chapman for the INS to stop entry of illegals.
amnesty and/or regularization of status programs as suggested by
Senator Kennedy (S.560) and others so as to determine the present
state of illegal immigration and to enable better future planning
Obviously these "solutions" are dealing with two different
(if interrelated) sets of problems what to do about present illegal
immigrants and how to stop entry of more illegal persons in future. The
advantages and shortcomings of such "solutions" have been well documented
in recent editions of International Migration Review (eg. Stoddard, Hohl,
Keely and Tomasi).
Australia is a country that has recently carried out an amnesty programme
as one response to the "problem" of what to do with resident illegal
immigrants. This programme its methods, processes, success and failures -
are worth reviewing in the light of a call for such amnesty for illegals
resident in the U.S. by many voluntary agencies, migrant groups, church
organizations and some policy makers. The Australian experience may well
have some lessons for the U.S.A.
Australian Immigration Since World War II
Prior to World War II migration from non-British countries to Australia
was spasmodic so that in 1947 less than 3 per cent of the populace of
Australia was ofnon-Anglo Saxon extraction. For various reasons, primarily
to obtain manpower for post-war reconstruction, Australia, in 1947,
embarked on a programme of mass immigration. British migrants were
unobtainable in the numbers required. Recruitment was, therefore, carried
out in other European countries resulting in thousands of Germans, Dutch,
Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs, Turks and others coming to Australia. Later
South Americans were encouraged to come. Some 3 million persons have
entered Australia since 1947 accounting for 60 per cent of the population
- 55 -
growth since that time. By 1975 nearly 20 per cent of the population could
claim to be of a non-Anglo Saxon extraction (see: National Population
.Inquiry, 1975). Only over the past4 years has this immigration growth been
curtailed, as will be discussed later.
Illegal Aliens in Australia
By late 1975 it was generally agreed that there were between 35,000 and
45,000 illegal aliens resident in Australia representing approximately
0.3 per cent of the total population.
The numbers of illegals, unlike in the United States, can be determined
with some accuracy by comparing total population census figures against incoming
migration figures, voting figures and registered alien lists (both census
and voting of citizens over 18 is compulsory in Australia).
In any large immigration programme it is inevitable that there will
always be a number of persons who for many reasons come as "illegals".
There are many motivations for wanting to come illegally (eg. to be with
family and friends, curiosity, adventure, to escape political/economic
oppressions, etc.) but in Australia which does not have joint borders as does
the U.S. or countries in any other continent, we might ask how is it that so
many illegal residents have managed to enter and live there?
The number of illegal immigrants have increased over the last 4 years
as the Government had been reducing the numbers of immigrants sought and at
the same time, for humaniratian reasons, had introduced an easy-entry
temporary visa system. This easy visa scheme was to enable family reunions
and the like but it appears many people used this as a way to enter and
stay in Australia. For example, of 134,000 temporary visitor visas issued
between July 1st 1973 and June 30th 1974 some 10,000 overstayed their visa
Also there have been a number of illegal entrepreneurial rackets
developed over the past 4 years where schemes are developed to issue persons
with temporary transit visas and telling persons these visas will enable
them to stay in Australia. For example, one scheme I know,is a Chilean
There are other differences to the U.S. that should be noted:
i. Australia has always used assisted migration payment schemes
(in one way or another) which helped regulate the flow depending on whether
one wanted the tap on or off;
ii. In Australia today, even though unemployment is increasing (from 3
per cent in 1972 to over 5 per cent in 1975), there is still a
considerable lobby to maintain and even increase immigration. So
the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr. MacKellar)
and industrialists such as Mr. McNeil, Director of B.H.P.
(Australia's largest company) are consistently making public
statements about ".. how Australia needs extra manpower to
help increase G.N.P., provide extra markets etc." (See Storer,
1976, pp.110-125 for details).
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agency that issues tickets to Chileans (desperate to lenve thnt country)
for Manila via Sydney. The Agency "contacts" meet these people in Sydney
who have the normal 3 day visa, and tell them everything has been arranged
for them to stay. The unsuspecting Chileans either are caught at a later
date or simply disappear into the cities. The "entrepreneurs" keep their
Whatever the reasons there were approximately 40,000 illegal
immigrants resident in Australia by December 31st, 1975.
Reasons for Amnesty in Australia
There were a number of interrelated historical, social and political
reasons for this amnesty. I can only give an overview of my impressions
for now and leave fuller documentation for later.
1. Political Political reasons for this amnesty ranged from broad
historical political trends to individual ministerial ambition:
(a) Historical Political Context Pior to 1972 there had been 23 years
of conservative Liberal Governments. This had coincided with mass
migration, the flow being essentially dependent on the demands of
industry and the state of the economy. Conservative politicians
determined such policies generally with a philosophical underpinning
that any non-British allowed to come to Australia both should
and would "assimilate and integrate" into the Australian cum
British way of life. Homogeneity in all aspects of social life
(education, legal, trade unions etc.) was "the ideal". Consequently-
cultures other than British were ignored or "devalued" and non-
British immigrants remained silent. Only with the advent of a Labor
Government in 1972 did non-Anglo Saxon migrants begin to speak out;
to articulate their grievances with their situation in Australia and
to challenge the homogeneous ideology underpinning the immigration
policies of Australia. By 1975 quite a number of migrant groups
had become organized in large enough numbers to make their demands
noticeable. In the election of 1975 both major political parties
responded to these demands and promises such as amnesty were made;
(b) A Specific politicalPromise It had been an election promise of
the Liberal/Country Party Coalition in the election of December,
1975. On forming a government it seemingly became a relatively simple
administrative task which would have immediate advantage of gaining
positive publicity after a bitter election;
My impressions are based on 4 years work with migrant and ethnic
organizations in helping them research and organize their views and
requirements, and working with relevant political and trade union
organizations (in particular with the Minister for Immigration in the
previous Labor Government 1972-75).
- 57 -
(c) Ministerial Ambition Immigration as a portfolio has a low priority
in Australian Government (though, unlike the U.S., there is a distinct
and separate Ministry for Immigration).Generally the Minister in charge
tends to use this position to gain publicity, exposure, enlarge contacts,
etc., to work his way up to a higher ranked ministry.
(a) many industrialists wanted migrant labour and businessmen want markets.
Even though unemployment was on the rise, immigration was readily
decreasing in Australia with only a net intake of 38,706 in the
1974/75 year and 20,000 in the 1975/76 year compared to 73,237 in
1973/74 and 109,000 in 1972/73 (Immigration Press Release 14/8/1976).
Many job categories were not being filled, particularly in mining
and manufacturing. Amnesty, therefore, would allow the Government
to show its "humanitarian" face to the world, to business interests
in Australia and to potential immigrants. This would set a framework
for following immigration drives late in 1976 where the expressed
purpose was to provide needed skilled workers and stimulate the
(b) compared to this positive economic motivation there was a negative
one that had been developing over the previous 2 years, which also
helped stimulate amnesty in a roundabout way. Unionists and others
had developed a campaign around the cry that "... 40,000 illegal
persons are taking the jobs of Australian born and they should be
deported".. This is a common cry of course but in an election year
when ethnic votes were important this helped provide a platform
for the Liberal Party to point to the negative attitude of unions
whilst they (the Liberal Party) were more humane.
3. Humanitarian There had been quite a deal of publicity about the "plight"
of illegal aliens. Voluntary agencies, welfare and church bodies had been
concerned for some time to lobby for the readjustment of.status of such
illegals. Newspapers and other media had periodically reported on the
more spectacular-situations such as some persons living in drainpipes
and so on. Others described how illegals were being heavily exploited
and how fear of detection enabled this.
HOW THE AMNESTY WAS CONDUCTED
i. Announcement and Conditions
The Minister of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs made his first
announcement on 31st December 1975 that there was to be a 3 month amnesty
for.all illegal. aliens commencing on Australia day (January 26th) 1976
to go until the end of April, 1976.
- 58 -
In summary all persons who were illegally residing in Australia could
hve their status adjusted to become legal residents if they met the
following two conditions:
(i) that they were in good physical and mental health;
(ii) that they had no criminal record either in Australia or previous
country(s) of origin.
This initial announcement was followed by a series of media releases,
media conferences and media "human interest" stories and discussions.
2. Some Initial Objections
Ethnic organizations and other concerned community groups responded
that generally this amnesty was a humanitarian and sensible action but
many also expressed a series of objections that varied from very specific
and technical to political and ideological.
(i) that announcements were initially made in essentially English
speaking media and should have used a wide range of ethnic media;
(ii) that the period of the amnesty was too short and it would take
a lo:t longer to communicate with illegal non English speaking persons
and convince them that this was a legitimate programme;
(iii) that there would be confusion over what is meant by "having a
criminal record". Did this mean having parking or driving offenses
or not having paid taxes? etc.
(i) that announcements were made in a paternalistic manner and not
a co-operative way with ethnic persons or organizations;
(ii) that there were no provisions made for a person to appeal if
(iii) that this amnesty was a political ploy to encourage left wing
illegal aliens to reveal themselves.
Many of these initial objections later turned out to have a good
degree of validity as will be described in a later section.
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3. Some Rectifications
There were some changes made because of these expressed objections.
There was a subsequent large amount of publicity through the ethnic media.
There was some consultation with the more established and conservative
ethnic organizations and "ethnic elites". The Minister made numerous
statements to try to clarify that a criminal record was only to refer
to."major offenses" such as smuggling, murder, embezzlement, etc.
He made statements that this was an honourable amnesty and in no way
PERSONS APPLYING FOR AMNESTY
At this time the only figures released by the Minister for Immigration
and Ethnic Affairs are concerned with those who had applied for amnesty
prior to the extension atthe end of April. At that time some 7,207
persons had applied for the amnesty and 2,115 had been approved up to
that time, a large number being deferred. These figures were viewed with
a press release from the Minister stating that persons from 82 countries had
applied; that there was to be a brief extension and that NO ONE had been
refused at that time.
It is regrettable that the Minister and his Department have not
publically released the final numbers of persons who applied for amnesty
and their demographic characteristics (age, sex, length of residence etc.).
It is notable that in his most recent media release (November 20th,1976)
the Minister has stated that "because there are still 35,000 illegals in
Australia that the Special Control Board has been asked to step up entry
controls and pursue illegals more thoroughly".
From this statement and the fact that the Minister has contended that
there would be no more than 40,000 illegals in Australia in January, 1976
we can deduce that probably not many more than the stated 7,207 persons
applied for amnesty.
Given the large publicity camping less than 20 per cent of those
eligible applied for this amnesty.
Because of the lack of details we have little to go on as to who
did and who did not apply. Generally the impression was that longer
established persons from Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia and the Southern
European countries applied compared to newer Turkish born or people
from South American countries.
In the only figures released on residential areas of amnesty
applications the following percentages were obtained:
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AREAS WHERE AMNESTIES APPLIED FOR % OF TOTAL
Rural Areas and Smaller Towns 4.5
Source: Ministry of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs,
Media Release, 20th February, 1976.
The most interesting point about this residential breakdown is
that Melbourne, which has the highest number of immigrants in Australia
had only one-third the number of illegals seeking amnesty as did Sydney
which has slightly fewer immigrants resident.
I would suggest that this is because Melbourne has historically been
a more civil issues/union/civil rights oriented city and migrant
organizations tend to follow the same trend as other groups. Consequently
the more militant organizations are found in Melbourne and most hostility
to this amnesty came from these groups in this City.
Apart from these few facts we know little about who applied
for amnesty; who didn't and why. All we know is that a relatively
poor number (less than 20 per cent of those eligible) applied for such
a small country as Australia.
WHY NOT AMNESTY
There nast be a complex number of personal, social, cultural and
political reasons for not applying for amnesty given the seeming advantages
of doing sc. I would suggest from my discussions that the following were
some of the factors behind the low numbers applying for amnesty.
1. Lenght of Amnesty Period The time allotted was only 3 months which
many thought was not long enough to establish rapport or communicate
effectively with people who, by their very nature of being illegal
aliens, were/are suspicious of most Government actions.
2. Lack of Co-operation with Ethnic Groups The Government made its
pronouncements without any attempts to work closely with "grass
roots" ethnic groups. Many of the fears, suspicions and questions
that developed, such as questions over what is meant by a "criminal
- 61 -
record" (did that include traffic offenses, tax evasion, divorce in
other countries,etc.) would have been averted if the Minister had not
rushed in but had spent more time talking to ethnic organizations
about his aims and the specifics of his proposals. Also t would have
been wise to have allowed ethnic organizations more scope to reach
members of their communities in their own ways. This might have
helped overcome traditional cultural barriers, for example the traditional
suspicion of Greeks to any Government authority (see Papadopoulos,
3. Poor Education Process Related to the previous point was a poorly
planned communication and educative program to spell'out the aims,
reasons, and specifics of the Amnesty. The Minister seemed more intent
on making grandiose pronouncements rather than to spend time on the
"nuts and bolts" of effectively developing ways to communicate with
illegals of different cultural backgrounds, of different age and sex.
I have talked with many, especially women, who did not know about
such amnesty until it was over.
4. Personal Fear and Suspicion Obviously this must have been one of
the major factors involved for persons who have spent years hiding
from Government authorities. This personal fear and suspicion often
has cultural underpinning (as described) where many Greeks, Portuguese
etc. have developed distrust of any authority over decades. Such
fear and suspicion could only be underlined by the record of previous
Liberal/Country Party Coalition Governments in Australia, by a system
which allowed no right of appeal or no public forum to contest the
rulings of the government.
5. Record of Government Over the 23 years when previous Liberal/Country
Coalitions were in power many aliens were refused citizenship on grounds
thought, by many, to be political. In Australia a person was eligible
to become a citizen if he had resided 5 years and met conditions of
health and had no criminal record. Over the period 1969-1970 some
.531 persons had been refused citizenship on security grounds (Australian
Consolidated Immigration Statistics, 1973) and many thousands had
their applications deferred. Between 1966 and 1970, for example,
some 169 persons were refused citizenship on security grounds 155
for being "Communists" and 14 for being right-wing extremists. Of
these 155 "Communists", 125 were Southern European. It must be
noted that these were only official figures. Many immigrants believe
others were rejected for political reasons. Whether this was true
or not certainly was the case that many immigrantsvieesd the Liberal
Government with considerable suspicion. It could be argued that
531 outright refusals, on security grounds, over a 21 year period
when 635,555 persons were granted citizenship is a small number.
But this number is significant because those refused citizenship
were often the most active, key people who might best represent
the rights and interests of the ethnic minorities. Also this system
- 62 -
of selective refusal became widely known in ethnic communities and,
I believe, helped to develop a general distrust of the motives of
Australian governments. This process of refusal also brought to the
attention of ethnic communities two procedluriil fit'aclur:; t.hi; also
helped intensify such suspicions;
(i) that there was no machinery of appeal. The Minister's word
(ii) that there was considerable secrecy surrounding the actions of
the Immigration Department and the use of Australian Security
This record, therefore, gave little cause for illegal immigrants
to trust the intentions of the present Australian Government. One
example that illustrates that such distrust was possibly warranted
is the case of a Mr. Ignazio Salemi, an Italian illegal alien presently
resident in Melbourne.
6. The Case of Salemi In June this year it was publically announced
that a Mr. Ignazio Salemi must leave Australia. Mr.Salemi has applied
for amnesty having no criminal record and.meeting standards of health.
Yet he was refused his amnesty. Why? No public explanations were
given other than he had overstayed his temporary visas. But this
seemed. to be the very type of "illegality" that the Government wanted
to give amnesty to. Why was Salemi refused? Many ethnic communities
have protested stating this was a political decision which smacked
of the left-wing purges of the 1950's and 1960's. It would seem that
there is considerable truth in these accusations.
In 1972 a group of Italians had decided to form a branch of
FILEF (a worldwide voluntary organisation to support the rights of
Italian immigrants funded largely by the Italian Government) in
Melb6urne. They asked for support from the Rome head office. In
March, 1974, Mr. Salemi, an experienced journalist, was sent to give
them organisational support. This was very important to the developemnt
of "ethnic politics" in Australia. Up until then migrant groups
were either "represented","manipulated" by middle class business
spokesmen or "welfare caretakers". The average migrant worker was
too busr surviving, and this combined with the attitudes of conser-
vative governments and the "devaluation" of their cultures by the
Anglo Saxon population at large, meant that migrant communities
were generally silent if not content. After 20 years in the country,
less pressures on survival, the development of civil rights issues in
the 1960s and a. Labour Government in 1972 then many of these migrants
began to organize to articulate their grievances, their views and
their requirements that had remained latent over this period.
FILEF became one of the more articulate and militant groups (around
welfare rights, education issues) and the work of Mr. Salemi was of
considerable importance to this organisation. He developed a
- 63 -
weekly newspaper, helped in research surveys and acted as a catalyst,
This of course was threatening to any conservative Government. He had
remained in Australia on various temporary visas until October 1975.
From then he had been illegal in Australia where he worked for no money
and obeyed all laws. When amnesty was announced, FILEF members were
very suspicious, for the reasons given, but after some time, Salemi
decided, in good faith to apply for such amnesty. This was refused
with no reasons given as stated. Due to considerable protest a legal
appeal to the High Court of Australia is proceeding.
The Salemi case is important because
(i) it indicates that decisions are still made secretly and reasons
for judgements are still kept from the public;
(ii) there exists no public forum for appeal.
The results of the High Court appeal are hoped largely to
overcome such discrimination.
The Amnesty programme, even though largely unsuccessful, was important
in Australia. It was important, not only for its own intrinsic merits,
but as an indication of the intentions and integrity of the new Government
and as a signpost of the directions it intended to take.
Since the completion of the Amnesty there as been considerable attention
paid to stopping illegal entry; a strengthening of the Immigration Central
Branch; a series of arrests of illegals (eg. 84 Chileans on May 31th; 32
Indians on June 14th); a series of regulations introduced to have airline
companies pay the return costs of any persons found to have irregular
visas on arrival.
The frustrations and difficulties involved in such a programme have
been indicated by recent Ministerial Statements. For example on November
20th the Minister issued a harsh attack on illegals stating that even after
his amnesty there still are 35,000 illegals resident in Australia and
that harsher measures were being sought. "There will definitely be
NO MORE OFFERS OF AMNESTY!"
SOME IMPLICATIONS FOR THE U.S.A.
Even though there are some differences in the immigration experiences
and present day "requirements" of Australia and the United States there
are enough similarities to suggest that the United States might learn
from the mistakes of the recent amnesty programme in Australia. All
this is of course assuming that the U.S.A. will want to provide an amnesty
- 64 -
Many implications for the U.S. have been implied throughout the text
of this article. I would suggest that some of the more important implications,
that American legislators and others concerned to achieve justice for
illegal immigrants might consider are:
1. Co-operation with Immigrant Groups
In the development and administration of any amnesty programme
there must at all stages be very close co-operation between policy
makers, the bureaucracy and those persons and groups such amnesty
is meant to reach and assist.
Before any amnesty, government legislators should attempt to
involve all ethnic and migrant groups (not just self-appointed
spokesmen and voluntary support agencies).
This should be a top priority (even if it takes more time
and costs more). The full involvement of "grass roots" groups is necessary
(a) determine the perceptions and requirements of these people
(b) overcome any possible cultural and social misconceptions in
the wording of legislation and subsequent publicity as happened
(c) oi'fset, as far as possible, persons' fears and suspicions and
acts of paternalism as again was the case in Australia.
2. An Extensive Period of Amnesty, involving a Community Education
Having developed appropriate legislation, with simple (yet precise)
wording and having obtained the best involvement of immigrant persons and
organisationis, then the Australian experience suggests that it is necessary
to have a fairly lengthy period of time (12 months) which people might
apply for amnesty. Over this period the Government should work on an
extensive community education programme to explain the aims, the rights,
and the ent elements and duties that are involved in such a programme.
This, of colirse, should be carried out in all appropriate languages.
As the Australian experience shows -illegal immigrants must (by their
very nature of being illegal) be extremely suspicious of such a programme.
Therefore if amnesty is to be anything more than a p.r. exercise such a
period of intensive campaigning must be deemed necessary from the beginning.
3. A Publicized System of Appeal
Illegal alines must be made aware that if they apply for amnesty,
believing they meet all conditions, they will receive a fair just deal.
In Australia, as was described, the history of actions of previous
governments their use of secrecy with no provision of/or system of
public appeal- meant that the amnesty project was developed in a continuous
context of doubt. An open system of appeal, free to appealees and well
publicized in the educative campaign would, I believe, help encourage
illegal immigrants to apply for amnesty.
If such actions could be carried out then, I believe, any amnesty
programme would have more likelihood of success than the one in Australia.
It is important that such a programme he successful for only then might
we determine how many persons have been illegal, what work they have
been doing and what their social situation has been. Then policy makers
and the community at large have a baseline from which to debate and
determine the type of immigration programme it desires and ultimately
the type of society it wants.
- 66 -
VII. REFERENCES CITED
Australia: National Population Inquiry, 1975 Population and Australia:
A demographic analysis and projection, AGPE, Canberra, 2 volumes
(Chairman : W.D. Borrie).
Australia: National Population Inquiry, 1978 Population and Australia:
supplementary report, AGPS.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1979 Population by birthplace,
Australian Government; Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Review of Activities 1978
Review of Activities 1979
Review of Activities 1980
Consolidation Statistics 1980
Australian Parliament, Hansard, 10 June 1981.
Bertelli, L., 1979 "Who are the illegals?" Migration Action,Vol.IV, No 2.
Bir'rell, R. and Hay, C. (ed.), 1978 The immigration issue in Australia,
Melbourne, Globe Press.
Birrell, R.. Glezer, L., Hay, C. and Liffman, M.(ed.) 1979 Refugees,
resources, reunion: Australia's immigration dilemma, Melbourne,
Birrell, R. and Birrell, T.,1981 An issue of people, Melbourne, Longman-Cheshire.
Cass, M.,19 0"In other words" Newsletter, Vol.1, No 3.
Collins, J. 1976 "The political economy of post war migration", in
Wheelw ight and Buckley (ed.) Political economy of Australian
capital ism, Sydney, ANZ Books.
Hawkins, F. Storer, D. and Tomasi, S.M., 1976 "Disposable workers
iP the USA", Migration Today (New York), VoL.IV, N03.
c., L., 1976 "U.S. Congress on immigratbn" in International Migration
Heview (New York),Vol.X, No 2.
Lippman, W., 1979 "Family reunions" in Refugees, resources,reunions,
Birrell R. et al., op.cit.
North, D., 1979 The Canadian experience with amnesty for aliens:
'Wlat the United States can learn, Geneva, 11O, October 1979;
mimeographed World Employment Programme Research working paper; restricted.
- 67 -
Papadopoulos, G. 1975, "Ethnic power in Australia: A greek perspective",
in Ethnic rights, power and participation, D. Storer (ed.), CURA
Piore, M., 1979 Birds of passage, Cambridge University Press.
Stoddard, E.R., 1976 "A conceptual analysis of the alien invasion", in
International Migration Review (New York), Vol.X, No 2.
Storer, D. (ed.), 1976 But I wouldn't want my wife to work here,
CURA Publication, Australia.
Storer, D., 1978 "The legacy of post war migration", in Birrell R. and
Hay, C. (eds.), The immigration issue in Australia,Melbourne,Globe Press.
Tomasi, S.M. and Keely, C.B., 1978 Whom have we welcomed ? New York,
Center for Migration Studies.
C. INTERNATIONAL MIGEATICN F1F E~PICYMENT
work ing Paj ers
1. international labour migraticn and international develo-
by C.W. Stahl, Jan. 1982.
2. Towards a sstem of recoimense for international latcur
by W.R. B8hning, Feb. 1982.
3. Contract migration policies in th.e Philiji ines,
by L.S. Lazo, V.A. Teodosio and P.A. S-o. Tomas,
4. Contract miqration .-n tIhe Peubli. cf Korea,
by S. Kii, Apr. 1982.
5. Imiq.ration of scarce skills in P Kistan,
by M. Ahmad, May 1982.
6. F Les clandestine et la r6gularisati-on de 1981-1982 en
par J.-P. Garson et Y. Moulier, 10 mai 1982.
7. Out of the shadows A review of the 193C neularisa-
tion of Status Prog;ramme in Austr-ilia,
by D. Storer with the assistance -f A. Faulkner,
International migration and
development in the Arab region
In 1975 over two-and-a-half million Arab workers and their dependants, as well as
another half-million non-Arabs, were living in Arab countries other than their home-
land. Migration on such a scale is largely the result of economic forces, in particular
the apparently insatiable demand for labour in oil-exporting, capital-rich States
such as the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Saudi Arabia.
In this well researched book the authors examine the volume and pattern of
international migration for employment to, from and between the Arab States of
the Middle East and analyse the factors underlying it. In so doing they draw atten-
tion to the advantages and disadvantages of these flows both to the countries of
origin and to the countries of employment, and suggest what might be the conse-
quences of the ever greater recourse now being had by the migrant-receiving
countries to labour from the Indian subcontinent and the Far East. The book con-
cludes by setting out a number of courses that the Arab migrant-sending countries
might consider in order to improve their position vis-a-vis the capital-rich
xii +175 pages 25 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-102251-X (limp cover)
35 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-102252-8 (hard cover)
Black migration to South Africa
A selection of policy-oriented research
Edited by W R Bohning
The results of research initiated by the ILO in 1976 into the whole question of Black
migration to South Africa are brought together in this study, which is published
with the financial support of the UN Fund for Population Activities. Taking as their
starting-point the assumption that Black migration to the Republic of South Africa
should be eliminated on both moral and political grounds, the researchers set
themselves two aims: first, to examine how the working and living conditions of
both the migrants and their dependants can be improved as long as migration con-
tinues; and second, to discover what means there are of reducing the dependence
of the migrant-sending countries on job opportunities in South Africa and, in partic-
ular, to consider how the existing migration link can be used to relieve these coun-
tries of their need to send workers to South Africa. The final chapter suggests a
possible plan for the gradual phasing-out of migration over a period of 15 years.
20 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-102759-7 (limp cover)
30 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-102758-9 (hard cover)
Trade in place of migration
An employment-oriented study with special reference to the Federal
Republic of Germany, Spain and Turkey
By U. Hiemenz and K. W. Schatz
An important feature of a new international economic order would be an efficient
international division of labour that would encourage a mutually profitable revival of
world trade. The present book is one of a number of case studies carried out under
ILO auspices to quantify some of the factors involved.
After examining in some detail the competitiveness of the industries of the
Federal Republic of Germany, in particular, which is one of the developed countries
already most integrated in world trade, the study estimates the effects of a liberali-
sation of the country's imports on employment in the Republic by industry, by area,
and by the skill, sex and nationality of the workforce. The possibilities of re-employ-
ment in their own countries for the Spanish and Turkish migrant workers who
might well be displaced by such a liberalisation are assessed in a concluding sec-
tion, which contrasts the economic policies recently followed in Spain and Turkey
and points to their employment implications.
x + 118 pages 17.50 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-101865-2 (limp cover)
27.50 Swiss francs ISBN 92-2-101864-4 (hard cover)