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Taxpayer foots rising asylum-seeker litigation costs



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M e d i a K e i e a s e

Τ Η θ Hon. Philip Ruddock MP Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs Telephony (02) 6277 7860 Facsimile: (02) 6273 4144

* MRS 42/99

TAXPAYER FOOTS RISING ASYLUM-SEEKER LITIGATION COSTS

The Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, today predicted the Australian taxpayer would be forced to pay a staggering $20 million in litigation costs by the year 2002 if the Senate failed to pass the Judicial Review Bill.

Mr Ruddock said 70 per cent of total litigation costs related to people whose refugee claims had been rejected and who then sought recourse through the courts. The remaining 30 per cent of litigation costs relate to all other immigration matters.

“Any single Protection Visa claimant whose application is refused who then applies to the Refugee Review Tribunal, appeals to the Federal Court, has one associated intervention request, and is then located, detained and removed from Australia, costs the taxpayer a minimum of $20,500”.

The $20,500 cost to Australian taxpayers include:

• $1,900 for Departmental processing of the application.

• $1,800 RRT processing costs.

• $9,800 in defence of RRT decision in the Federal Court.

• $7,000 to locate, detain and remove a failed applicant from Australia.

“These figures show the extent to which Australia's legal system is being abused by people who have no right to be here," Mr Ruddock said.

‘ Litigation costs are escalating as people repeatedly seek to have their negative protection visa decisions overturned.

Ίη 1995, litigation costs alone totalled $6 million. By the end of 1999 they are expected to reach $13 million, and by the year 2002, they could reach as high as $20 million".

Mr Ruddock said that since 1993-94, the number of new refugee related applications to the Courts jumped dramatically from 53 a year, to 470 last year. This figure is expected to reach 500 by the end of 1999.

“These frequently vexatious actions are clogging Australia’s judicial system to the point that there are now 1,100 unresolved cases before our courts. Based on current estimates, a staggering 2,000 cases could be facing resolution by 2002".

“In addition to litigation costs, there are other significant costs borne by the Australian community in relation to Protection Visa claimants.

“In 1997-98 the Department provided $11 million to some 1,050 Protection Visa claimants through the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme, to cover accommodation, health and food costs for those without the necessary funds.

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▲ “Failed Protection Visa applicants also owe Australia almost $2.8 million in $1,000 * Refugee Review Tribunal post-decision fees, payable when the Department's ^ primary decision has been confirmed. Clearly, large numbers protection claimants W are choosing to thumb their nose at the laws of this country*.

* Mr Ruddock said the location of overstayers, a large number of who are failed assylum-seekers, imposed yet more costs on the Australian taxpayer.

/ "In 1997-98, around 80 per cent of the Department's $50 million compliance budget f was spent on locating, detaining and removing failed PV applicants and unauthorised arrivals from Australia.

"Tellingly, of the total number of people unlawfully in Australia, over 5,000 are failed Protection Visa claimants living in the country illegally'.

Mr Ruddock said the fairness and credibility of Australia’s refugee determination process Is reflected by the fact that of the 6,506 cases the Refugee Review Tribunal looked at in 1997-98, the Tribunal upheld 90 per cent of the Department’s decisions.

"These figures demonstrate that in many cases, a review is sought merely as a delaying tactic. Unfortunately, these delaying tactics mean Australians find it harder to gain access to their own courts and to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

"These circumstances only serve to highlight the need for the Government’s planned reforms to limit judicial review by introducing a privative clause.

"The Bills currently before the Senate are legitimate and measured responses to very real problems.

"The Judicial Review Bill aims to reduce the growing cost and incidence of migration litigation and the consequent delays in removing non-citizens with no right to remain In Australia.

‘This Government takes Australia’s international obligations for the resettlement of genuine refugees very seriously, and our refugee determination process is recognised by the UNHCR as one of the best in the world.

“However, the facts show that the system is being manipulated as part of a delaying tactic. I am not prepared to put up with it any longer, and neither should the Australian public."

ENDS Sunday, 7 March 1999

Media Inquiries: Brad Robinson (02) 6277 7860 or 0419 278 715