Raw Story, June 21, 2014
Australia is offering asylum-seekers in its Pacific immigration camps up to $10,000 (US$9,400) if they voluntarily return to their home country, a report said Saturday, prompting outrage from refugee campaigners.
Fairfax Media reported that those returning to Lebanon from detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and the tiny Pacific state of Nauru were offered the highest amount of $10,000.
Iranians and Sudanese were given $7,000 if they dropped bids for refugee status, Afghans $4,000 and those from Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar $3,300, the report in The Sydney Morning Herald said.
The Herald said under the previous Labor administration–in office until last September–the payments were much lower, ranging from $1,500 to $2,000.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said “return packages” were standard practice but would not reveal what the maximum payments had been.
“The packages range (in terms of) value and it’s not just in terms of any financial element, but also training, support and other issues to assist people to get on their feet when they return,” he added.
Australia has toughened its policy on asylum-seekers in recent years, with those arriving on unauthorised boats now refused residency in Australia even if they are deemed refugees.
Instead they are held in detention camps on Manus and Nauru and are expected to be resettled in those countries if their claims are valid.
Since the policy was introduced, more asylum-seekers have chosen to voluntarily return to their country of origin while the number of people attempting to reach Australia by boat has dried up, with no vessels arriving for six months.
Morrison’s office said 283 people had voluntarily returned home from offshore processing centres since shortly after the conservative government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott won power in September.