03 May 2012

Immigration workers tell of ‘widespread’ Australia visa fraud

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A former immigration agent has revealed widespread reform within the Australia visa system which has led to hundreds of foreign nationals living in Australia under false identities.

Australia visa

Immigration officials have claimed that fraud is rife in the Australia visa application process.

The former official, who declined to be named, worked at the Australian high commission in Islamabad, Pakistan where she saw 'endemic fraud' occur 'on a daily basis'. According to the official, the most common problem was Pakistani nationals purchasing Afghan identities before fraudulently applying for an Australia visa.

"A large percentage of my caseload would have been Pakistanis claiming to be Afghan refugees or Afghan asylum-seekers," said the official. "It's a policy problem and we're so concerned with being politically correct and not being seen as racist that we're compromising our own integrity."

Another official, currently working for Australian immigration authorities and who also declined to be named when itnerviewed by investigative TV programme 7.30, confirmed the widespread instances of fraud, particularly when it came to immigrants already in Australia sponsoring applications for family members they are not related to.

"Afghans in Pakistan are now coached by ever-more informed relatives and agents in Australia about how to sidestep [Australian immigration's] integrity process," said the official.

The officials' revelations are of worrying concern to Australia and its security, immigration agent Marion said once a foreign national receives an official visa, they have no reason to reveal their true identity.

"Some people think as long as they're here they can stay in the community on their false identities," said Ms Le.

"That is, I think, a very big concern for Australia because we have no way of knowing who these people are."

The immigration official admitted the department was trying to tackle the instances of fraud but the process was being hampered by a lengthy and often successful appeal from denied applicants.

"The sponsor would go to the MRT [Migration Review Tribunal] in Australia and the case would be remitted, and in that case we would have no choice but to grant."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge their Australia visa applications with the Australian High Commission.

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