Australian experts on migration have criticized a foreseen agreement by the Federal Government of Australia to privatize the visa processing system. The $1 billion-plus government contract proposed by the Australian Home Affairs Department has been rejected and criticized by the Migration Institute of Australia and the Australian Migration Council, together with the former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration Abdul Rizvi.

Handing visa processing to the private sector has been branded as extremely risky. Experts are fearing that leaving such personal data to private interests may be monetized in unforeseen unsafe ways.

The president of the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) John Hourigan believes that the privatization of the system would reduce the integrity of the processing systems and make it more expensive.

The privatization of Australia’s visa and citizenship program delivery model will reduce the integrity of the processing system, increase costs to users of the system and make the protection of sensitive data and national security more difficult,” he says.

At the same time, the former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration, Abul Rizvi, who is also a trenchant public advocate against the privatization project, said that outsourcing’ or in-house staff would be better than privatizing the visa and citizenship system.

A clear and coherent rationale, business case, risk plan and key performance indicators for the proposed privatization of the visa and citizenship function has not been made available to the Australian public,” he explains, adding that the technology platform for visa processing requires regular upgrading and possibly re-development.

According to Rizvi, under a ‘privatization’ model, the winning company would hold actual ownership of the new visa processing IT platform, what he believes raises a new set of risks, as increased visa fees what could lead to potential damage of the Australian industry sectors reliant on tourism, international students, and overseas workers.

The idea has also been widely condemned by the Australian MPs, who on August 1 referred a range of matters related to the provision of government services to the Legal and Constitutionals Affairs References Committee for inquiry. Though the Committee was supposed to report on October 16 this week, in September the Senate extended the reporting date to February 2020./

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