More than 200 bikies, drug traffickers and sex offenders have had their visas cancelled in the past three months and have started being deported from Australia.
The number of cancellations is much higher than in recent years, because Immigration Minister Peter Dutton now has greater powers to revoke visas of convicted criminals.
Since December last year, 203 visas have been cancelled, a high rate of cancellations compared to 372 revocations between July 2011 and July 2014.
Mr Dutton said he would not apologise for taking a tough approach.
“Frankly they’re detracting from the Australian society, not adding to it,” Mr Dutton said.
“They should be removed from our shores as quickly as possible.”
Of the 203 people who have had their visas cancelled since mid-December last year, 92 are living in immigration detention centres.
Another 99 are serving sentences in prison and 12 have already been deported.
Mr Dutton said an amendment to section 501 of the Migration Act has increased his power to cancel visas.
“Essentially that provides for a mandated arrangement for visas to be cancelled for people who had a conviction of 12 months or more imprisonment, or for people who have been here on a visa and have been convicted of a sexual offence against a child,” he said.
“It confers a power on the minister to, in the national interest, decide that a visa should be cancelled of somebody who, for example, had been involved in a serious crime.
“It may be that they’ve been involved in trafficking of illicit drugs, it may be that they’ve been involved in gang rapes or it may be that they’ve been involved in sexual assaults of another nature.”
But some families are pleading with the Government to reconsider.
Skye Mallon’s mother Joanne Gordon-Stables has had her visa cancelled.
“She’s depressed, it really upsets her that she won’t be able to see her children.”
Ms Gordon-Stables has been jailed twice for drug offences and is set to be deported to New Zealand, where she has not lived for nearly 40 years.
“She’s lived in Australia all her life without even realising she had a visa to be taken,” Mrs Mallon said.
“She was done for drug charges and she was incarcerated for 12 months but only served six months of that.
“She received a letter before she got out saying that she was going to have her visa cancelled.”
Mr Dutton said he would consider individual cases, but would not make any promises.
“My responsibility is to the Australian people, to make sure that we’re compassionate wherever needed, but that we apply the law fairly and firmly,” he said.
“If people have committed crimes against our country then their visas will be cancelled.”
People who have had their visas cancelled have 28 days to appeal the decision.