Page last updated at 07:51 GMT, Sunday, 26 October 2008

Australia warns on migrant cuts

An Asian migrant with a small child in  Sydney's Chinatown district, 20/02/01
Australia has targeted skilled workers

Australia may cut the number of immigrants allowed into the country if the global financial crisis raises unemployment levels.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Evans said a decision on reducing numbers would be taken after mid-year financial data is published next month.

Around 190,300 immigrants are forecast to arrive in Australia in 2008/09.

Earlier this month, a British minister said the country could reduce migrant flows due to the economic crisis.

Mr Evans said the country's current migrant programme, which is aimed at skilled workers, was designed when Australia was forecasting good economic growth and a skills shortage.

"If those parameters are changing, the government will take a sober look at those issues and make a decision when we have got proper information," he told Nine Network television.

Complex decision

"Clearly if the demand for labour comes off, you'd adjust the migration programme accordingly," he said. "We can turn the taps off if we need to."

Mr Evans said that any decision on cutting migrant flows was complex, considering their contribution to the country's economy.

"We know that they consume, they buy property, and they're a net positive to the budget," he said.

"And a lot of the skills that are coming in at the moment are in the mining sector, which has allowed us to increase our exports."

He said there were still industries which had a "strong demand" for labour and the government would analyse the economic situation and consult industry before deciding on what to do.

Australia was already witnessing an increase in the number of migrants coming from Britain and New Zealand, Mr Evans added.

"I think the downturn in Great Britain over the last year or two has actually seen a renewed interest from Great Britain in people looking to migrate either temporarily or permanently," he said.

Earlier this month, Britain's immigration minister Phil Woolas said the country might reduce the number of migrants coming into the country because of the economic crisis.

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