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Speedier processing for asylum claims

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Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP

Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600.......... Telephone (06) 277 7860; Facsimile (06) 273 4144

MPS 53/96

Speedier processing for asylum claims

The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, announced today measures to speed up processing o f asylum claims and to contain associated operational costs.

"Additional funding o f $9.6 million in 1996-97 will allow my Department to devote more staff to addressing the backlog o f protection visa applications inherited from the previous Government," M r Ruddock said.

"The additional resources together with the Review o f Decision Making will allow asylum claims to be dealt with quickly and effectively. The measures will also ensure applicants in detention are held for the shortest time possible.

"This Government is committed to honouring its obligations to people who genuinely need protection as refugees. It believes they should be dealt with quickly and fairly so they can rebuild their lives".

"Under the previous Government, the protection visa system had become unmanageable and over-costly to the taxpayer. Many applicants receive financial benefits through the Asylum Seekers Assistance Scheme (ASA) while waiting for the backlog o f applications to be cleared," M r Ruddock said.

"ASA cost the taxpayer some $16 million in 1995-96 and would cost $22 million this year if not addressed. Faster processing will help contain the spiralling costs o f the ASA.

"While it is difficult to ascribe motives, circumstantial evidence suggests that some people are using the protection visa system to prolong their stay in Australia.

"In fairness to those people who are in genuine need o f Australia's protection it is imperative that the Government concentrate resources on those applicants who are at the beginning o f the protection visa process. Hence ASA will be restricted to those making their initial application for a protection visa.

"Limiting ASA to primary applications may well be a significant factor in the decision to pursue claims which have very little chance o f success".

ASA has been available to eligible protection visa applicants while their claims have been assessed at the primary and review stages but has not been available to applicants pursuing litigation. "While applicants have a right to pursue review there is no obligation to support them financially if the Government has assessed them as not being refugees," M r Ruddock said.

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Canberra, 20 August 1996

Media inquiries: Steve Ingram 0419 278 715 or (06) 277 7860

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