Immigration health restrictions to be relaxed?

Date: May 22, 2012

Changes to the health restrictions imposed on some potential immigrants may soon be changed so that more people with medical conditions and disabilities can enter Australia.

The government is expected to announce the amendments in due course, a report in The Australian reveals, as more than one in ten people on immigration blacklists are there due to health concerns.

Lawyers in immigration have not seen the threshold change for the past decade, despite campaigns for amendments to be implemented.

As a result, an external review was commissioned by the immigration department and carried out by Allen Consulting, which found that a new strategy is needed to ease immigration restrictions on health grounds.

The report cites figures showing that of the 599 people denied a visa due to health reasons in 2010-11, 392 of them failed due to concerns surrounding the cost of prejudice of access.

In many cases, people are unable to relocate to Australia because of worries about the cost of their treatment, as opposed to the risk they pose to existing residents, the article noted.

Among the conditions that prevent people from accessing Australia are epilepsy, HIV, heart problems and mental illness.

Estimates suggest that these at-risk groups could cost governments in excess of $21,000 over the course of five years - a figure that increases for those over the age of 75.

This follows the news that the government is raising its targeted migration program over the next financial year in a bid to fill skills shortages in certain areas of the Australian economy.

Minister for immigration and citizenship Chris Bowen explained that 5,000 extra places would be made available in a bid to address the "patchwork economy".

"Skilled migrants are increasingly moving to growth regions and places where there is demand - they are complementing rather than competing with our domestic labour force," he commented.

Mr Bowen indicated that amendments to the employer-sponsored migration programs are now more streamlined and responsive, leading to improved productivity and stronger employment outcomes.

The government has also taken steps to improve the social benefits of migration to Australia, which has been accommodated by an increase in the number of family places from 58,600 to 60,185.

"It's obviously important that people be able to live with family members, which is recognised in the increased places to help meet growing demand," stated the immigration minister.

Children and partners can also make a significant contribution to the Australian economy, he added.