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14 April 2008
As Australia gets set to withdraw its troops from southern Iraq, the government is extending its thanks to Iraqi employees who provided support services by allowing them to apply for permanent residence.
The Australian government will adopt a new visa policy for what they term "Locally Engaged Employees" (LLEs) which include Iraqi support personnel such as translators and interpreters. Because of their association with Australian troops, the government considers them at risk in the war-torn country.
The policy will only apply to LLEs and their families specifically designated by the Australian government as being eligible for the humanitarian visas. Immigration authorities expect to grant up to 600 humanitarian visas under the new policy.
No specific time-period has been announced about when LLEs can apply for permanent residence, but according to the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the first group to benefit from the new visa policy will be "a select group of Iraqis who have worked for, or with, the withdrawing elements of the Australian Defence Force commitment to Iraq."
Australia is well-known for welcoming immigrants. Australia's humanitarian visa stream is one of three main immigration streams (quotas) under which people can migrate to Australia; the other two are the family stream and the skilled stream.