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Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Australia to accept more immigrants
Broome, small Outback town in Western Australia
People who want to live in the regions will be favoured
Australia has announced it will accept more immigrants in 2002-03 but will not increase its quota of refugees.

Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said Australia would take between 100,000 and 110,000 immigrants, up from 93,000 last year.

He said the level would be maintained for the next four years, with preference given to applications from skilled workers.

Emigrating to Australia
As a "skilled worker" you must be under 45
Have appropriate language ability
Usually have post-secondary qualifications
Pass the points test awarded for skills
Alternatively, you can be sponsored by a relative
Or qualify as a "distinguised talent"

The number of refugees allowed in will remain fixed at 12,000.

However, because fewer asylum seekers are arriving illegally by boat, Australia will provide for more refugees to be processed this year at its offshore detention camps.

While there will be more places for immigrants, the pass mark to gain entry as a skilled worker will rise by five points, Mr Ruddock said. Bonus points will be granted to those who migrate to regional Australia, away from overcrowded cities such as Sydney.

There will be 10,000 places for offshore refugees and 2,000 for those processed in Australia next year, Mr Ruddock said.

Mr Ruddock said that of the 1,259 still in detention centres in Australia itself, 824 were to be removed from Australia, while the remaining 435 had been rejected and were appealing.

Turning to the US

Australia's asylum policy has been strongly criticised by the UN and members of the international community. Australia has cited security concerns in its defence.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer unveiled plans on Tuesday to refocus the country's foreign policy, with greater emphasis on its ties with the United States.

Mr Downer said the primary trigger for the shift in policy was the terrorist attacks on 11 September.

But leader of the opposition Labor Party, Simon Crean, warned that Australia risks alienating itself from its Asian neighbours, who take 60% of its exports.

See also:

23 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australian PM defends asylum camp
22 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Fresh trouble at Australian camp
11 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australia shakes up migrant camps
10 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Protests at Australian detention camp
03 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australia hunts for fugitive migrants
02 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Australian break-out refugees in court
31 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Activists outwit Australia's asylum policy
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