australia news

Palmer ''racist'' claims denied by immigration body

January 20, 2010

Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship has refuted Clive Palmer's claim the country's immigration policy is ''racist'', after the Gold Coast United chairman launched a scathing attack over the case of a Ghanaian trialist.

Palmer blasted the Australian government's immigration policy after he insisted the unnamed Ghanaian was refused an entry visa into the country, and likened the decision to deny the player the chance to earn a contract at the A-League club as a return to the ''white Australia policy'' that came to an end in the 1970s.

However, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship revealed the player had not in fact been stopped from entering the country and that his case is still under consideration.

''This person has not been refused a visa,'' a spokesperson said. ''He has been asked for documentation to support his application. A decision on his visa application is yet to be made.

''The decision to grant or refuse a visa will be made in accordance with the law and will take into account the individual's circumstances and all relevant criteria relating to the grant of the visa.''

The Department also hit back at Palmer's accusation that their policies were racist, insisting each application was decided purely on a case by case basis.

''Our visa and migration programs are not racist or discriminatory,'' the spokesperson added. ''The Australian Government makes no apology for taking a risk-based approach to its migration program.

''Different integrity measures apply to applicants from different countries for a wide range of visa subclasses. The integrity measures are based on the risk of immigration fraud and are adjusted from time to time.

''The policies and integrity measures it applies to all visa subclasses are in accordance with Australia's international legal obligations.''

That Ghanaian sportsmen and women require their visa applications to be supported by the Ghanaian Ministry of Youth and Sport also drew Palmer's ire. But it was in fact the African government who approached its Australian counterpart to introduce extra measures for sportspeople travelling to the country after a number of immigration fraud attempts.

''In September 2009, following a number of well-organised incidents of immigration fraud by Ghanaian sportspeople, the government of Ghana expressed its concern about its international sporting reputation and the ability of legitimate Ghanaian sports people to get visas in countries like Australia,'' the spokesperson continued. ''In co-operation with the Australian Government, it was agreed visa applications from sportspeople from Ghana would require vetting from their relevant national sporting bodies and a letter of support from the Ghanaian Ministry for Youth and Sport.

''Similar integrity measures are in place for sportspeople from other countries including Kenya and Ethiopia. There are also strengthened integrity measures for eVisa applicants from Romania and Bulgaria because they are identified as high-risk countries.''