Migrant farm workers sent home despite new ASEAN ag visa announcement | Ralph-Lauren

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There are people in Australia who want to work on farms right now but their visas won’t let them.

Jamson Agin is a Victorian farm worker and is being sent back to Malaysia, but his employers don’t want him to go.

Last week the federal government announced new agricultural visas for South-East Asian workers.

The new farm work visa will be offered to residents from Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Brunei and Cambodia to help Australian farmers harvest their crops.

The announcement comes following the new UK free-trade agreement, which ends the requirement for British backpackers to work on Australian farms for 88 days

Mr Agin and his employers want to know why he is being sent away when the government is bringing workers from Malaysia under the new ag visa plan set to be implemented later this year.

Work rights an ongoing issue

Mark Trzaskoma is production manager at Battunga Orchards in the Yarra Valley, Warragul and Thorpdale.

He said it was frustrating having to train people over and over again.

He says part of the solution to the worker shortage is already here.

“The government is starting to put something in place but we need workers right now. With the workers already here, they could fix things right now,” Mr Trzaskoma said.

Two men working on an orchard
Jamson Agin works on orchards across the Yarra Valley and Gippsland.(

Supplied: Jamson Agin

)

He said it was common for visa issues to get in the way of farm work.

“We run into this a bit,” Mr Trzaskoma said

“Someone is working for you then they have visa trouble and lose their work rights.

Supporting his family

Mr Agin works for a regional Victorian fruit-netting company in Drouin, Victoria.

He has been employed by the company for two years.

Even though Mr Agin’s home country, Malaysia, is listed as one of the 10 South-East Asian countries eligible for the new agricultural working visas, he is having to fight to stay and continue the work he is already undertaking.

“The reason I came here is for my wife and children and for my parents,” Mr Agin said.

“My mum is so proud to have a son that goes to Australia and is supporting his family.”

Reliable workers crucial

Michael Dawson employs Mr Agin to net orchards across regional Victoria.

Mr Dawson says because of his family commitments he relies on Mr Agin.

“I’m a full-time single father. I need to be able to walk away from the job site from time to time and I can trust Jamson to get the work done.”

An apple and pear orchard
Jamson Agin’s employer is tired of having to train replacement staff. (

Supplied: Jamson Agin

)

Mr Dawson said losing workers due to visa complications was common in the agricultural industry and a cause of frustration.

“It is a big problem for us in the ag industry,” he said.

“They [the Department of Foreign Affairs] are just not flexible at all.”

Address farm shortages: lawyer

Lauri Stewart is an immigration lawyer.

“If the Department of Foreign Affairs [and Trade] is going to request that people leave Australia when they may be eligible to return under the new agricultural visa, why are we placing our farming industry in jeopardy by not allowing these workers to remain here when their employers are in such desperate need of trained staff?” she said.

Ms Stewart believes the Minister for Immigration could be addressing the shortage in farm workers by granting the right to work to people who are here right now.

Meanwhile, Mr Dawson wants his employee, Mr Agin, to be able to stay in Australia and continue working for him.

“Jamson is just a great lad — he works hard [and] never complains,” Mr Dawson said.

He wants to work and my business needs him.”

The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment. 

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