Australia cuts annual immigrant cap, puts key cities off-limits to some

Australia’s annual immigration intake would be cut to 160,000 people, with effect from July 1, versus 190,000 before. (AFP)
Updated 20 March 2019
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Australia cuts annual immigrant cap, puts key cities off-limits to some

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes to tap into rising voter frustration over house prices and congestion
  • The policy change comes at a time of national reflection over Australia’s attitude toward migrants after the shooting of at least 50 people in New Zealand

SYDNEY: Australia on Wednesday cut its annual intake of immigrants by nearly 15 percent, and barred some new arrivals from living in its largest cities for three years, in a bid to ease urban congestion.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison — who is trailing badly in the polls ahead of a federal election in May — hopes to tap into rising voter frustration over house prices and congestion, which some see as a consequence of population growth.
“This is a practical problem that Australians wanted addressed,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra, the capital, after announcing the annual immigration intake would be cut to 160,000 people, with effect from July 1, versus 190,000 before.
The policy change comes at a time of national reflection over Australia’s attitude toward migrants after the shooting of at least 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand’s city of Christchurch.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after a lone gunman opened fire at the two mosques during Friday prayers.
“My great frustration is that, in addressing these issues of population and immigration programs, these debates often get hijacked by those of competing views who seek to exploit them for other causes,” Morrison added.
“I reject all of that absolutely.”
A ReachTel poll published in September showed that 63 percent of Sydney residents supported curbs on the number of migrants moving to Australia’s biggest city.
Morrison said the cap would include places for up to 23,000 people who could migrate to Australia under a new skilled visa.
Such arrivals could gain permanent residency after living outside of Australia’s largest cities for three years, he added.
They will be barred from living in Melbourne, Perth, Sydney or the Gold Coast, where infrastructure is overutilized, said immigration minister David Coleman.
Authorities will require proof of residential and work addresses in future applications for permanent residency, he added, as a way of enforcing the requirement.
Business welcomed the bid to alleviate regional skill shortages.
“While Australians in our major cities are frustrated by congestion, those in our regions have told us they need more people, skills, jobs and investment,” said Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Australian Business Council.
There is no cap on temporary migration, such as students on temporary visas, who form the bulk of migrants to Australia, which issued 378,292 student visas in the year to June 30, 2018.


Kremlin says N.Korean leader Kim to meet Putin in Russia on Thursday

This combination of files pictures made on April 18, 2019, shows portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) taken on December 31, 2014 in Moscow, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un taken on February 27, 2019 in Hanoi. (AFP)
Updated 3 min 35 sec ago
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Kremlin says N.Korean leader Kim to meet Putin in Russia on Thursday

  • The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim departed for Russia on Wednesday morning by private train

MOSCOW/VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on Thursday in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok to discuss the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, a Kremlin official said.
The visit is part of Kim’s effort to build foreign support after the breakdown of a second US-North Korea summit in Vietnam in February meant no relief on sanctions for North Korea, analysts said.
The summit will be the first between Putin and the North Korean leader. The nuclear row, and how to resolve it, would be the main item on the agenda, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters.
“In the last few months the situation around the peninsula has stabilized somewhat, thanks in large part to North Korea’s initiatives of stopping rocket testing and closing its nuclear test site,” Ushakov said. “Russia intends to help in any way possible to cement that positive trend.”
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim departed for Russia on Wednesday morning by private train.
Kim is accompanied by senior officials including Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, KCNA said.
Kim’s chief aide, Kim Chang Son, was seen in Vladivostok on Sunday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
Vladivostok is the closest major Russian city to the short stretch of border that Russia and North Korea share and can be reached from the border by train, Kim’s preferred mode of international transport.
Russia has for years been involved in efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program. It was involved in so-called six-party talks — along with North and South Korea, Japan, the United States and China — that were last held in 2009.
“The United States and the international community is committed to the same goal — the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,” a US State Department official said when asked about Kim’s latest summit.
“It is Chairman Kim’s commitment to denuclearization upon which the world is focused,” he said.
The spokesman said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun would also continue their dialogue “to bridge any gaps on the way forward‎.”

’POSITIVE PROGRESS’
South Korea’s foreign ministry said it understood the agenda would include Russia-North Korea relations, denuclearization, and regional cooperation.
“Russia shares our viewpoints such as the achievement of complete denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and the settlement of permanent peace,” foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said in Seoul.
“I hope that the summit will be an opportunity that contributes to positive progress.”
Kim Jong Un is probably looking to prove that he is still sought after by world leaders after the failed Hanoi summit with US President Donald Trump and that he has more options, said Artyom Lukin, a professor at Far Eastern Federal University.
The North Korean leader did not want to look too dependent on Washington, Beijing and Seoul, he said.
“As for Russia, the Putin-Kim summit will reaffirm Moscow’s place as a major player on the Korean peninsula. This meeting is important for Russian international prestige,” Lukin said.
Putin previously held a summit in Russia with Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, in 2002. Kim Jong Il visited Russia again in 2011, when he was hosted by Dmitry Medvedev, the Putin lieutenant who at the time was serving as Russian president.
Online media that monitor North Korea reported that the venue for the summit would be the Far Eastern Federal University, on an island that is connected to the mainland part of Vladivostok by a bridge.
The bridge was built in time for the 2012 Asia-Pacific Cooperation Summit, which took place on the same site.
The sports complex at the university was closed on Tuesday and workers were seen bringing in pieces of furniture, a Reuters TV crew at the site reported. A white tent had been erected next to the sports complex.
Security guards at the entrance to the campus were stopping and searching vehicles as they drove in. There were no signs of preparation at Vladivostok railway station.
However at Khasan, a Russian settlement where the train line crosses the border, the state flags of Russia and North Korea were fluttering from the station building on Tuesday. A set of mobile steps for alighting from a train was positioned on the platform edge.