Australia to place heavy fines for bosses who hire illegal workers

15:11, July 21, 2011      

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Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Thursday said the federal government will address a growing number of illegal workers in the country by overhauling penalties given to employers.

A report by independent legal expert, Stephen Howells has found strong evidence of a growing number of illegal workers, associated in part with organized crime and sexual exploitation.

The Howells report estimates there are currently at least 50,000 illegal workers in Australia and potentially more than 100,000.

Bowen said he intends to accept the findings of Howells' report, including the introduction of a three-tiered sanctions regime to penalize employers who use illegal workers, with civil penalties and fines of up to 10,721 U.S. dollars per illegal worker.

"The report finds that the current law simply does not work," Bowen told Herald Sun on Thursday.

"The current law does not provide a disincentive to hire illegal workers. Because it is simply too difficult and complex to launch a successful prosecution."

Bowen said the penalties will be placed as a civil prosecution, instead of a criminal prosecution, which will make it easier to launch those prosecutions.

Bowen added that tougher sanctions would be used against those found employing two or more illegal workers.

The federal government would now embark on six weeks of consultation on the proposals.

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