Australia flag.

Canberra, June 5 (IANS) The Australian government on Monday announced a crackdown to better protect temporary visa holders from exploitation and employers who are caught violating the new federal laws could face criminal penalties.

According to a report published by thinktank the Grattan Institute in May, one in six recent migrants to Australia is paid less than the minimum wage, reports Xinhua news agency.

Under the changes, which will be introduced to parliament within weeks, coercing someone into breaching their visa condition will be made a criminal offence.

Employers who are found to have exploited migrants will be prohibited from further hiring workers on temporary visas.

Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles described the current situation as a “crisis of exploitation”.

“When migrant workers are being underpaid – it hurts all of us, driving wages and conditions down for everyone,” he said in a statement.

“These reforms will help workers speak up and target those employers who do the wrong thing.”

A section of the Migration Act will also be scrapped to make it easier for visa holders to report exploitative behaviour.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) will receive an extra A$50 million ($32 million) in funding for enforcement activities.

“Over the last 10 years our migration system has drifted deeper and deeper into reliance on low-paid temporary migrant workers who we know are routinely exploited,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said.

“We are in consultation on systemic changes to our migration system which will ensure it works in the interests of Australian workers and businesses, and we are also doing the work necessary to ensure that no one who comes to this country is exploited or abused.”