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Two million temporary visa holders in Australia left in limbo

Following a strict new travel ban announced by prime minister Scott Morrison on Thursday, concerns are also being raised about the ability of the agriculture sector to access the foreign labour it relies upon for farm work. More than two million temporary visa holders living and working in Australia have been left in limbo and risk breaking migration laws as the coronavirus pandemic brings global travel to a near standstill.

The Migration Council of Australia says it has particular concerns for two groups of visa holders – those on multiple entry tourist visas who can’t meet visa conditions, and those on temporary work visas who would be vulnerable in the event of a downturn. Some visa holders are also at risk of breaching visa rules if their work conditions change.

“We have a large stock of people currently in the country who are potentially impacted by unemployment and closures as businesses, particularly in the services industry, wind down, who do not have access to Centrelink benefits,” Migration Council of Australia chief executive Carla Wilshire told Guardian Australia.

“Many of them have families and children, and rental payments … which creates a significant vulnerability in the community.”

Wilshire also said that tourist visa holders may need to be moved on to bridging visas to avoid being in breach of conditions and becoming unlawful, while other visa holders who breached work requirements could also find themselves in trouble.

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