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ALL people coming to Australia on visas that could lead to permanent residence will be forced to sign a values statement from October under a radical shift in immigration policy.
Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews also says greater emphasis will be placed on whether people are likely to be able to integrate when deciding whether to grant them visas.
Factors to be taken into account when assessing a person’s integration capacity include their English skills, attitude towards learning English, their adaptability and resourcefulness and their knowledge of Australia.
Immigration officers will be trained to implement the new integration policy, which is expected to be introduced from next February.
The tightening of the policy comes after Prime Minister John Howard last year criticised a small section of the Muslim community for failing to integrate, including not adhering to Australian values such as respect for women.
Mr Andrews said last night all people seeking permanent visas and temporary visas where there was potential for long-term stay, such as business skill visas, would be required to sign a values statement from October before being granted visas.
This would commit them to obey Australian laws and respect Australian values.
“In defending Western culture we should be unapologetic in requiring migrants to make a commitment to our way of life,” Mr Andrews said in a speech to the Sydney Institute.
“We cannot assume that the capacity of all of our potential migrants to integrate successfully is the same as their predecessors.”
He said Australian values included freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, equality of men and women, peacefulness and compassion for those in need.
Mr Andrews said the Government had also decided to place greater emphasis on the capacity of people to settle in Australia when assessing applications for visas that could lead to permanent residence.
He said this would ensure that applicants could cope with the problems associated with settlement, were able to integrate into Australian society and, in the case of families, were united in their desire to settle here.
Mr Andrews said partner and child visas and temporary skilled worker visas would be exempt from the new policy.
However, applicants for humanitarian visas would be assessed against the integration criterion.
Australia’s humanitarian program has been mired in controversy in recent years amid concerns that thousands of African refugees traumatised by civil war, illiterate in their own language and with no experience of basics such as electricity were struggling to integrate.
“The Australian way of life is … something to be rightfully proud of,” Mr Andrews said. “We are now welcoming migrants who have not been exposed to these values and heritage, who may not have experienced them in their past and who may not have thought about how intrinsic they are to the Australian way of life they seek to enjoy.”
Mr Andrews said he also expected the citizenship test would be introduced from September.
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