Australian immigration highest for a decade

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With over 111,000 people arriving and settling, 2003-2004 saw the highest number of migrants and refugees coming to Australia in ten years, according to Australia's Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA).

According to data released January 10, last year's number was 20,000 more than in 2002-2003, and reflects a general trend for increased migration – in 1993-1994 just 70,000 settlers arrived in Australia. Furthermore, DIMIA says that these figures do not include increasing numbers of people gaining permanent residency status, such as overseas students making onshore skilled migration applications.

With 18,000 British migrants to Australia last year, the UK contributed the most new arrivals, followed by New Zealand, China, India, South Africa, the Sudan and the Philippines. Over half the entrants (68,500) settled in the two most populous Australian states of New South Wales and Victoria, which contain the country's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne.

Also, in related news, it appears that migrants are doing well economically once they get to Australia. According to a study by Australian academic Professor Sue Richardson entitled "A Comparison of Australian and Canadian Immigration Policies and Labour Market Outcomes", migrants get jobs quicker in Australia.

The study has found that six months after arrival, 26 percent of migrants to Canada were unemployed, compared with just 10 percent in Australia. Commenting on the study, Australia's Immigration Minister Senator Amanda Vanstone said on January 12 this result was due to Australia's selection criteria, in which a tough points test assesses potential migrants' skills, work, experience and English-language abilities, and means that a higher proportion of migrants aged 25 to 44 are taken.

"The Australian Government has a high integrity Migration Program that takes the best people from around the world, and these migrants are achieving good outcomes within a short timeframe," said Ms Vanstone. She added that the study disproves a common assumption that differing economic conditions in Canada and Australia cause the divergent results.