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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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The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) is urging the media and the public to ignore hoax emails circulating on the internet about government benefits provided to asylum seekers and refugees permanently settling in Australia.

Some of the hoax emails also falsely claim Australia accepts terrorists and other criminals under its international obligations.

“The text in these emails has many gross inaccuracies,” a DIAC spokesman said.

“Irregular maritime arrivals are subject to thorough security and identity checks and must satisfy the character test before being a decision is made about protection.

“Only those who engage Australia’s international obligations receive refugee status; indeed, the government has already returned people who were not refugees.

“Figures quoted in these emails also bear no resemblance to income-support payments to asylum seekers and refugees settling in Australia.

“Asylum seekers in Australia who have not yet had their protection claims decided have no access to Centrelink benefits.

“In Australia, refugees granted permanent visas have access to benefits on the same basis and at the same rates as other Australian permanent residents.”

The spokesman said refugees received no cash payments under Australia’s Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy. He said any claims that refugees are given free houses were ridiculous.

“DIAC helps eligible refugees with English-language lessons and settling-in assistance including basic goods to start a household, as well as subsidies for rent and utilities for their first four weeks in the country,” the spokesman said.

“We would strongly encourage anyone who receives an email claiming asylum seekers or refugees are treated more favourably than Australian permanent residents to hit the delete button and ignore these ridiculous claims.”

Media Enquiries: (02) 6264 2244

Source  :  http://www.newsroom.immi.gov.au/media_releases/750

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