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A SPECIALIST integrity unit has been formed inside the Department of Immigration to deal with widespread fraud in the working holiday visa program, on which industries such as fruit growing depend.

More than 200 internet advertisements have been found offering to buy or sell documents allowing backpackers to claim they had worked in rural jobs without them leaving Sydney, and thus extend their working holiday visas. The standard fee is $400. So far, 64 visas have been cancelled over the fraud and at least 19 more are being reviewed.

One man, an Irish national, has been convicted of fraud. ”There’s been more than 100 fraudulent claims identified this financial year,” a spokeswoman for the department said. ”The answer is we don’t know [the full extent of the fraud]. At this stage it’s too early to determine and we will be looking at it over the next six months.”

The working holiday visa (subclass 417) allows people to extend their stay in Australia by a year if they can prove they have worked in a rural area for three months. Applications are lodged online but have been abused by people selling Australian business numbers linked to farms so backpackers can falsely claim they worked on farms.

”Second year visas for sale,” one ad read. ”Will email completed 1263 form and add your details to my books so you can gain second year visa with ease.”

Another ad offering similar services, posted on the Gumtree website on Saturday, had received more than 2000 hits by last night. Unlike visa scams targeting international students, mainly Indians, this fraud is used mainly by European visitors.

One backpacker told the Herald he had been offered the false documentation as soon as be arrived in Australia, by people staying at the same hostel.

”People told me about buying the documents – getting the numbers to put in,” he said. ”When I arrived here people said you can go there [to a farm] or you can buy. Everyone knows about it. It’s easy. All the people who are here know about that.”

The federal Opposition spokeswoman on immigration, Sharman Stone, said the widespread fraud reflected under-resourcing of the department.

Source  :  www.smh.com.au

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Adult criminals sentenced to outdoor community work will from today wear bright yellow vests emblazoned with “Repay WA” as part of a Government repay wacampaign to increase public confidence in community service as a punishment.
   
Corrective Services Minister Christian Porter claimed community work had not been used as a sentencing option as often as it could be because there was a perception among the public, and sometimes the courts, that it was becoming “a joke”.
   
“For the public to view community work as an appropriate sentencing tool, they need to see the work carried out as ordered by the courts,” Mr Porter said.
   
The State Government has adopted the tougher stance after statistics showed more than 40 per cent of offenders sentenced to community work in 2007-08 did not finish their programs.
  
WA’s completion rate of 56 per cent, 14 per cent below the national average, confirmed it as the worstperforming jurisdiction in Australia.   
   
Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan had suggested the vests after seeing them used in Britain this year.
   
“These vests will go a long way towards providing reassurance to the community that justice is in fact being done with these sorts of offenders,” Mr O’Callaghan said. 
 
Mr Porter said a crackdown on breaches had resulted in 55 per cent of offenders complying with their orders by attending work sessions, up from 40 per cent in June last year.
   
The rules will be tightened further in the next year, with offenders hauled back to court if they miss work on any two occasions. The existing scheme allows for three consecutive breaches before action is taken.

Australian Lawyers Alliance WA president Tom Percy said in February he was appalled by the idea. He said it was designed to humiliate offenders.

But Corrective Services community and juvenile justice deputy commissioner Heather Harker said yesterday she did not think offenders would be taunted or abused. “Many people out working in the community wear high-visibility vests and in many respects this is no different,” she said.
   
The vests will be worn by adult offenders working outside — such as in maintenance, repairs and gardening.
   
Juveniles will not be forced to wear the vests, which have been printed by inmates at Casuarina Prison.
   
More than 5500 adults and 770 juveniles are completing community justice orders of between 10 and 240 hours with punishments such as cleaning, gardening, administration, recycling, kitchen duties or sorting donated clothes for charity.

Source  :  www.thewest.com.au

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