KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — Australian Immigration has cancelled the visas of 1,779 Malaysians between July 2017 and February this year even before they were cleared from the airport, as it tries to tackle what it called an “orchestrated scam” to enter the country.
Australia’s ABC News said data provided to its Senate showed that at more than 20 refusals each week, the number represents almost a third of the total cases — despite Malaysian tourists making up less than one in 20 tourists to the country.
“This represents an orchestrated scam that provides protection visa applicants the right to work in Australia until their claims are finalised,” Australian Minister for Multicultural Affairs Jason Wood was quoted saying.
This comes as Malaysian visitors are increasingly attempting to enter Australia through a loophole where they would come using electronic visitor visas, before applying for protection visas in an attempt to stretch their stay.
ABC reported that even as authorities reject their application for protection visas, such Malaysians would appeal against the decision, and therefore extending their stay during the appeal period.
By the end of last year, Malaysians make up around three-quarters of the around 10,000 electronic visa holders who had overstayed their visas.
The electronic visa system was made available to Malaysian applicants since 1997.
However, in the past few years, the amount of Malaysians who requested for protection visas shot up from around 1,400 in 2014 to 2015, up to 3,500 between 2016 and 2017.
By 2018, the number was at a whopping 9,300 applications.
ABC reported that even after the requests were rejected, they could still stay in Australia with full work rights while appealing for around two to three years — costing the country around A$50 million (RM145.3 million) in the past three years.
Yesterday, Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya told the Parliament that Malaysians applying for protection in Australia claimed that they face circumstances such as family stress, racial and religious discrimination, and domestic abuse.
However, he claimed that Malaysians are preferring to seek refuge in Australia due to higher wages, the low cost of applying for such protection visas, and the light punishment for those who do not have visas.