Australia takes a step back on immigration policy

16 July 2015

An international study has found Australia's performance has slipped backwards in terms of how well migrants integrate in their new countries.

Between 2010 and 2014, Australia's score on the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) dropped by one point overall.

Jessica Kinsella from The Australian National University (ANU) helped collate the Australian data, which focuses on providing migrants with the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as non-migrants.

"The fact that Australia's policies are deemed less favourable for integration is disquieting given it is vital for social cohesion and ongoing prosperity," Ms Kinsella said.

"We spend a lot of time on who we keep out and who we let in but it is just as important to look at policies affecting migrants already in Australia and the process of settling here."

Thomas Huddleston of the Migration Policy Group in Brussels, which compiles the index scores from 38 countries, has been tracking international performance since 2006.

"Losing the point on the MIPEX scale in 2013 raises questions about the future direction of Australia's traditionally inclusive integration policies," Mr Huddleston said.

Australia was ranked eighth out of the 38 countries.

Ms Kinsella said the MIPEX project identified eight areas of policy which experts believe impact upon the integration of migrants.

Australia received lower scores in two areas of the index which impact how successfully migrants settle into the country - family reunification and access to long-term residence.

In the 2014 study Australia's score on how governments are facilitating migrants to reunite with family has dropped by almost 15 per cent from 68 to 54.

"The result is due to the cap placed on numbers of visas available for sponsoring parents and grandparents and dependent adult children, which in effect renders these visas practically unavailable,'' Ms Kinsella said.

Australia's score dropped from 57 to 54 when it comes to how governments facilitate access to permanent residence. 

"This is due to the fact that fewer people are eligible for permanent residency; time spent studying in Australia as an international student no longer provides a direct pathway to permanent residence," she said.

"Australia is a nation built on migration and our policies are not placing enough importance on enabling migrants to settle properly."

The MIPEX measures policies in European Union member states, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.

The latest results and Australian country profile are available on the MIPEX website.