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Failed protection visa applicants cost Australia millions.



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MEDIA RELEASE

 

The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP 

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

 

FAILED PROTECTION VISA APPLICANTS COST AUSTRALIA MILLIONS

 

MPS 26/99

 

Failed Protection Visa (PV) applicants are costing Australia millions of dollars in unpaid fees, litigation and location and removal costs, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, said today.

 

Mr Ruddock said that at the end of December last year, failed PV applicants owed almost $2.8 million to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in $1,000 post-Refugee Review Tribunal decision fees for the period July 1997 to December 1998.

 

“Thousands of failed PV applicants owe money to the Commonwealth following RRT confirmations of decisions made by my Department.

 

"It is worth remembering that in 90 per cent of cases coming before the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT), the RRT upholds the Department’s assessment that the individual is not a refugee."

 

Mr Ruddock said about 85 per cent of the applicants who were refused a Protection Visa by the Department applied for a review with the RRT.

 

"In 1997-98 the RRT determined 6,506 cases and affirmed the Department’s decision in 90 per cent of them.

 

“However, about 40 per cent of people who are offered a hearing with the Tribunal to discuss their case decide not to attend or accept the appointment but don’t show up.

 

“Furthermore, around 15 per cent of review applicants withdraw their applications before they receive a decision.

 

“Sadly, these figures indicate that in many instances such review is sought merely as a means of delaying departure from Australia.

 

“Running costs for the Refugee Review Tribunal were in excess of $14 million in  1997-98, but if litigation and court costs are taken into account legal costs associated with failed PV applicants would clearly be much higher.

 

“Litigation on immigration-related matters alone cost more than $9 million in 1997-98, up from $6 million in 1996-97, and figures suggest this cost will continue to grow.

 

“Since 1993-94 the number of new refugee-related applications to the courts has risen from 53 to nearly 470 per annum.

 

“This generates not only significant cost, but also imposes increasing delays on Australians seeking access to the courts.

 

“Many applicants for Protection Visas know from the outset they are not refugees, but manipulate the process to obtain benefits such as the right to remain in the country and obtain work rights.

 

"It is for this reason the Government introduced regulations to restrict work rights for applicants who have been denied Protection Visas by the RRT, or who lodged claims more than 45 days after arrival in Australia”.

 

“These circumstances also strongly underscore the need for the Government’s planned reforms to limit judicial review through the implementation of the privative clause".

 

Mr Ruddock said some 5,000 failed Protection Visa claimants are currently living in Australia illegally having overstayed their bridging visas.

 

“Failed Protection Visa claimants account for around 10 per cent of all overstayers in Australia, and their legal costs and costs associated with their removal place an enormous financial burden on the Australian taxpayer.

 

“In 1997-96, 80 per cent of the Department’s compliance budget of $50 million was spent on locating, detaining and removing failed PV applicants and unauthorised arrivals from Australia.

 

“It is clear that some of these people had already manipulated our legal system to prolong their stay in Australia without regard for the costs involved and without any proper claim to be here.

 

“Then, having exhausted all legal options to remain in Australia, many stayed on illegally.

 

“However, these people should be aware the Government has refocused compliance activities away from employer education campaigns towards physically locating and removing overstayers and illegal entrants.

 

“Substantial resources have been dedicated to this task and, as a result, detection rates are climbing.

 

“This Government takes Australia’s international obligations to the resettlement of genuine refugees very seriously, and our refugee-determination process is recognised as the United High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as one of the best in the world.

 

"However, the facts clearly show the system is being manipulated, and this manipulation places an unacceptable burden on the people of Australia and genuine

refugees languishing in camps overseas."

ENDS Saturday, 13 February, 1999 

Media Inquiries: Brad Robinson 0419 278 715.

 

 

JS