Widespread visa fraud alleged within Australia’s Immigration Dept

Australia’s Immigration Department has been rocked by claims of frequent and widespread fraud in visa applications, which insiders say has led to child trafficking on Australian soil.

The allegations relate to family visa applications in which Pakistanis are claiming to be from Afghanistan.

While immigration officials often detect the fraud, in many cases they are overruled on appeal.

A former employee at the Australian High Commission in Islamabad, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she witnessed visa fraud in her office “on a daily basis”.

“Definitely, in fact I would say just about daily, a large percentage of my caseload would’ve been Pakistanis claiming to be Afghan refugees or Afghan asylum seekers,” she said.

It is something that even refugee advocates acknowledge.

“I’m not sure that I would say regularly, but it’s certainly something I have come across,” migration agent Marion Le said.

“I know there are people living now in Australia as permanent residents, as citizens who are actually citizens of Pakistan but who pass themselves off as Afghans.”

The ABC also obtained a letter from another Immigration Department employee which details the extent of the problem.

“Illegal facilitation of non-family members, children, child brides, and unknown strangers via false documents, false statements and false applications,” the letter reads.

The letter said some visa holders already in Australia are sponsoring family members who are in fact no relation at all.

“Afghans in Pakistan are being coached by ever more informed relatives and agents in Australia about how to sidestep DIAC’s (Department of Immigration and Citizenship) integrity processes,” the letter reads.

“When particular visa subclasses are being cracked down on – for instance the ‘orphan relative’ and ‘carer’ visas – the fraud simply moves to other caseloads.

“Family reunification visas are now the preferred ‘fraud du jour’.”

The former High Commission employee agrees with the letter’s sentiments.

“I know that there are children that have come to Australia who are not related to the people that they have been sponsored by – they’re not part of that person’s family,” she said.

“You know they’ve just been lost in the system – lost in the world wherever they are.”

Ms Le said she often comes across “women and girls who have been beaten and their families who don’t leave for cultural reasons”.

“I’ve got four cases on my books at the moment of very, very serious abuse here in Australia,” Ms Le said.
Source of frustration

Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan acknowledges that there are issues.

“We have been able in fact to halt a number of attempts where people have tried to pass off children as their own,” he said.

“This is unfortunate that this occurs, but fortunately we do have systems in place to detect and to prevent [it].”

The former High Commission employee says many visa applications were detected and rejected, but that is when the Migration Review Tribunal (MRT) would intervene.

“The sponsor would go to the MRT in Australia and the case would be remitted, and in that case we’d have no choice but to grant [the visa],” she said.

She says the decisions were “an endless source of frustration”.

“Sometimes you got to the point where you thought ‘why bother refusing’,” she said.

Mr Logan says he can understand the frustrations of staff, but that is why a review mechanism is in place.

“It doesn’t mean that we get it wrong when the decision is overturned – it is more often than not the passage of time which has resulted in either new evidence coming to light or new circumstances presenting themselves over time,” he said.

In some visa categories, more than half of all rejections are later overturned on appeal at the MRT, despite the decisions of the Immigration Department.

The MRT and Refugee Review Tribunal currently have about 100 members constantly processing a backlog of thousands of visa appeals.

Tribunals chief Denis O’Brien admitted to 7.30 that his workers “are not coping particularly well at the moment”, but defended the decision-making process.

“Our decision making is sound, notwithstanding the fact that we’ve got a large volume to deal with,” he said.

“When they appeal to us they will often want to put evidence before us that addresses the deficiency in their case when they lost originally before the department.”

Category: Australian Visas
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