Yuko Narushima, Sydney Morning Herald, August 11, 2010
MIGRATION agents are helping clients lodge bogus refugee claims to stay in Australia, a former immigration official says.
In an opinion piece in the Herald, Patricia Cruise says people fly to Australia on legitimate visas and make false claims of religious persecution to avoid leaving.
Ms Cruise, who decided onshore refugee applications between 2005 and 2009 and also between 1993 and 1995, said such bogus claims were a far greater threat to Australia’s borders than those arriving by boat.
“More numerous than the asylum-seekers coming by boat are the thousands who arrive in Australia by plane and apply for refugee status under the onshore refugee program,” she said. “The majority of bogus asylum-seekers are from China, with smaller numbers coming from India and other south-east Asian countries.”
Ms Cruise said migration agents were complicit in the fraud and rehashed successful asylum claims. A common theme was religious persecution, for holding Christian beliefs or adhering to Falun Gong.
“Over many years, the industry of bogus onshore refugee applicants has been very profitable for those involved. It poses far fewer risks than organising people-smuggling via boats but offers greater and more consistent rewards. The federal government has failed to address the problem over just as many years,” Ms Cruise said.
The chief executive of the Migration Institute of Australia, Maureen Horder, said the majority of migration agents acted responsibly and the industry was subject to high levels of scrutiny.
“If anyone has evidence that someone is acting illegally and purporting to be a migration agent then it is within their power to act against those people and apply the force of law against them,” she said.
The immigration department says the majority of asylum seekers in Australia arrive legally and subsequently apply for protection. Its officers who process applications for protection visas are versed in the law, policy and procedures concerning the Refugees Convention.