Foreign workers paying excessive fee for Australian work visa

Melbourne: Eighty Indians were among hundreds of foreign workers and students who were reportedly duped to pay excessive fee for Australian working visa by recruitment agents, raising serious concern over the misuse of a visa scheme, which allows hiring immigrants.

Foreign workers were promised long-term work or permanent residency if they paid between 5,000 and 40,000 Australian dollars to middlemen across the nation only to be given temporary work or, in a small number of cases, with little or no pay, a media report said.

Around 80 Indians were duped into paying 4,000 Australian dollars for a cleaning course in Melbourne worth only 1,300 Australian dollars after being told that it would enable them to get a work visa, the report said.

Some of those Indians were directed by their recruitment agent to work as unskilled labourers in abattoirs in an arrangement one of the abattoir owners, JBS Australia, said involved the agent misleading it and the workers, it said.

The Fairfax Media investigation reported Friday in 'The Age' that the probe can reveal the most extensive misuse of the 457 and 187 visa schemes ever to be exposed, with up to 200 cases across Australia.

As part of the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), a subclass 187 visa allows Australian employers to sponsor foreign employees. Subclass 457 visa allows eligible employers to address skills shortages that cannot be filled from the local labour market.

The investigation also disclosed other network of companies based in Geelong, the Gold Coast and Philippines that were targeting Filipino workers seeking 457 temporary skilled worker visas.

Around 29 Filipino workers had complained to the Philippines embassy in Canberra regarding the "excessive" fees they had to pay to the agents and sought a probe.

The report also disclosed that a Melbourne-based company Clinica Internationale, owned by Radovan Laski, which was involved in such acts was able to operate despite complaints made to the Immigration Department.

Laski allegedly asked around 100 Indians to pay 40,000 Australian dollars for a 187 visa that allows a skilled worker to get Permanent residency after a regional employer sponsorship.

It was said that Laski however failed to find many of the workers the promised jobs and sponsorship and instead sent some of them to work as unskilled labourers in abattoirs.

According to 27-year-old Indian Bhawna Verma, who was temporary residential visa holder, she was pregnant and desperate to stay in Australia when Laski promised in writing in 2012 to find her employment and sponsorship if she paid an initial 5,000 Australian dollar fee.

After paying the money, she said she was sent to work for an associate of Laski in Ocean Grove, Victoria, where for two months she received no wage and did only odd jobs. "It was very upsetting. I thought how will my baby and I survive?" Verma said.

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