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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 20:08 GMT 21:08 UK
Is Australian immigration better?
The author of a critical report on the UK's immigration policy says it is a "free-for-all".

Harriet Sergeant, who wrote the report for the right-leaning Centre for Policy Studies, said the Australian system is more open and clear about the numbers of immigrants it is accepting.

BBC News Online takes a look at how the Australians deal with the difficult issue.

Australia operates a two-pronged migration system, with each category offering a set number of places each year.

The Migration Programme caters for immigrants with particular occupations, talents and business skills.

Asylum seeker in Woomera
An asylum seeker at the refugee detention centre in Woomera

It also has a family migration section, where people can be sponsored by a relative who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

It has introduced a special visa which allows certain skilled migrants places in the country provided they commit to living and working in regional Australia.

Former residents and "certain New Zealanders" can also apply to return under the Migration Programme.

It has a total of 100,000 to 110,000 places available in 2003/04 and expects to have around 120,000 places for 2004/05.

The Australian minister for immigration Amanda Vanstone says it has a policy of managed migration in the national interest.

She says the policy ensures that Australia's working age population will continue to grow past the middle of the century, rather than decline as it would without immigration.

Nurses in demand

The second prong is the Humanitarian Programme, which is designed for refugees and those in "special humanitarian need".

This deals with those who are in need overseas, and those who have already arrived on temporary visas or through unauthorised means.

The size of the programme for 2003/04 is 12,000 places, increasing to 13,000 in 2004/05.

People in refugee camps who cannot return home and cannot afford a people smuggler need a lasting solution
Amanda Vanstone
Minister for Immigration

Mrs Vanstone says this increase is only possible because of the country's success in "dramatically reducing the number of illegal immigrants".

She said: "The unquestionable success of offshore processing, returning boats and our coordinated border control has made the people smuggling business much less attractive.

"With a strong economy and strong border control, Australia can now welcome those most in need through the front door.

"People in refugee camps who cannot return home and cannot afford a people smuggler need a lasting solution.

"Resettlement is the only option."

In the past 50 years, more than 620,000 refugees and displaced people have been resettled in Australia, according to Australian immigration department statistics.

Many had close family or other ties to Australia, the department says.

Within the Migration Programme those with jobs that are high in demand, such as nurses, receive priority.

'Dob-in line'

"Whether you have a high level of skills and experience or need to gain additional skills, there is a visa to suit you", says the department's website.

Australia has also developed state-specific and regional migration programmes help regional governments attract more skilled and business migrants.

In this area the number of migrants has grown from 1,130 in 1996/97, to nearly 8,000 in 2002/03.

However when it comes to illegal immigrants, Australian policies are clear.

Its Migration Act 1958 requires that all non-Australian citizens who are unlawfully in the country be detained and, that unless they are given permission to remain, they must be "removed as soon as practical".

The government's "Immigration Dob-In line" operates for the public to report people they believe are living or working illegally in Australia.

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