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Australia’s recently appointed Immigration and Citizenship minister has issued a stern warning to citizenship applicants amid a rising application backlog and dwindling citizenship conferrals.
“Australian citizenship is a privilege and it should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia,” David Coleman, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship said in a recent statement.
“Any conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values will be considered as part of the citizenship application process, including violence against women and children, involvement in gangs or organised crime, and any behaviour that threatens our national security,” he added.
The warning comes in the wake of Australian citizenship conferrals plunging to 80,652 in 2017-18 - the lowest in 15 years. The Department of Home Affairs attributed the decline in citizenship approvals to an enhanced focus on security measures. The minister says he makes no apologies for it.
“Those who choose to become Australian citizens are making a solemn commitment to our democracy, to our way of life. And that commitment, made by five million people over the past 70 years has helped secure and enrich our nation.
“We will always work to make the system as functional and effective as possible for legitimate applicants. However, we make no apologies for ensuring only those who meet our security and character requirements are given the privilege of Australian citizenship,” said Mr Coleman.
Citizenship applicants are currently waiting 17-19 months to know the outcome of their applications with the backlog ballooning to nearly 245,000. According to the Department of Home Affairs, 244,765 were waiting for the processing of their applications, as of 30th June this year.
Mr Coleman said more investment and resources, including 150 additional staff, are being directed towards processing of citizenship applications.
“Applications are at a record high—we are a country that many people want to live in and be a part of… We are investing heavily to meet this demand, while also protecting the security and integrity of the system to ensure only legitimate applications are approved.”
The minister said, as a result of boosting resources, more than 33,800 citizenship applications were processed during the first three months of the current financial year as compared to 18,700 during the same period last year.
The Department says one of the reasons behind increasing waiting times is an increase in cases requiring “complex identity assessment”.
“The Government has established a 50-person task force within the Department of Home Affairs to deal with highly complex citizenship applications and ensure they are dealt with as efficiently as possible,” Mr Coleman said.