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Coalition pledges to stop funding public funding of asylum seeker claims

SIMON BENSON NATIONAL POLITICAL EDITOR THE DAILY TELEGRAPH AUGUST 31, 2013 12:00AM

 

SYLUM seekers will be denied free government advice on lodging claims and launching appeals under a controversial Coalition plan to end taxpayer-funded support for boat arrivals.

The scrapping of the service, created to help asylum seekers lodge refugee applications and appeal adverse decisions, would save up to $100 million over the next four years. It would apply not only to new arrivals but to any of the 30,000 asylum seekers currently in Australia who may still be accessing the service.

In the latest addition to Tony Abbott’s expanding border protection crackdown, to be released today, those deemed by the Coalition to have arrived illegally would be automatically barred from accessing the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme.

The Coalition policy maintains it is not preventing asylum seekers access to legal assistance but would stop taxpayers funding it.

In a move that is likely to end millions of dollars in funds flowing to high-profile migrant agents, the Coalition would also force private pro-bono groups, including legal aid commissions, to cover any costs incurred by the Department of Immigration through referral services.

The scrapping of the taxpayer-funded immigration service is aimed at ending what the Coalition claims is an “open tab” for boat arrivals.

It is likely to ignite a vocal backlash from human rights and refugee advocacy groups.

It would not only apply to people classified as irregular boat arrivals but also to those who fly here.

Shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison said the government should not be helping fund applications from people who try to enter Australia without going through the proper process.

“If people choose to violate how Australia chooses to run our refugee and humanitarian program, they should not presume upon the support and assistance that is provided to those who seek to come the right way,” he said. “And they should certainly not receive additional assistance, as they do now,” he said.

He said the existing practice was unique to Australia with very few countries in the world offering comparable services.

Mr Morrison said that it would also provide significant budget savings over the four-year forward estimates.

“The Coalition will implement our approach to send the clearest possible message that not only has there been a change of policy, but a change of resolve,” he said.

The IAAAS offers professional migration advice with refugee applications for asylum seekers and can be accessed up until an application is successful.

This year the service has cost more than $40 million.

But a Coalition policy document, to be released today, estimated the savings to be $100 million in the budget forward estimates, which would help fund other Coalition policies.

The scrapping of the service – created to help asylum seeker lodge refugee applications and appeal adverse decisions – would save up to $100 million over the next four years.

It would apply not only to new arrivals but to any of the 30,000 asylum seekers currently in Australia who may still be accessing the service.

In the latest addition to Tony Abbott’s expanding border protection crackdown, to be released today, those deemed by the Coalition to have arrived illegally would be automatically barred from accessing the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme

The Coalition policy maintains it is not preventing asylum seekers access to legal assistance but would rather stop taxpayers funding it.

In a move that is likely to end millions of dollars in funds flowing to high profile migrant agents, the Coalition would also force private pro-bono groups including legal aid commissions to cover any costs incurred by the Department of Immigration through referral services.

The scrapping of the taxpayer funded immigration service is aimed at ending what the Coalition claims is an “open tab” for boat arrivals. But it is likely to ignite a vocal backlash from human rights and refugee advocacy groups.

It would not only apply to people who classified as irregular boat arrivals but those that come by other means such as aircraft.

Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said that the government should not be helping fund applications from people who try to enter Australia without going through the proper process.

“If people choose to violate how Australia chooses to run our refugee and humanitarian program, they should not presume upon the support and assistance that is provided to those who seek to come the right way, and they should certainly not receive additional assistance, as they do now,” he said.

He said the existing practice was unique to Australia with very few countries in the world offering comparable services.

‘We are simply not going to provide this service,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“It just won’t happen and that is the way it happens mostly around the world.”

Mr Morrison said it would also provide significant budget savings over the four year forward estimates.

“The Coalition will not be a soft touch on our borders as Labor have been for the past six years. We will also provide the consistency and resolve in our approach that has been lacking under Labor for the past six years.

“The Coalition will implement our approach to send the clearest possible message that not only has there been a change of policy, but a change of resolve.

The IAAAS offers professional migration advice with refugee applications for asylum seekers and can be accessed up until an application is successful.

This year the service has cost more than $40 million.

The Immigration department acknowledges that the scheme is designed to help the most “vulnerable” visa applicants by providing “migration advice to prospective visa applicants and sponsors”.

But a Coalition policy document to be released today estimated the savings to be $100 million in the budget forward estimates, which would go toward funding of other Coalition policies.

“A Coalition Government will add to (Operation Sovereign Borders) by withdrawing taxpayer funded immigration assistance under IAAAS for those who arrive illegally by boat or any other method to prepare asylum claims and make appeals.

“With more than 30,000 people left in Labor’s queue, a Coalition Government is not going to keep the taxpayer funded immigration advice tab open. Our obligations do not extend to free immigration advice and assistance.”

It will, however, retain basic written instructions in multiple languages on the visa applications and assessment rules, and access to interpreters, consistent with the United Nations Human Commission on Refugees.

“Access to private and/or pro bono immigration advice will be facilitated by DIAC, with all costs to be met by the providers of these services, including costs incurred by DIAC,” the document adds.

“The Coalition will also seek to mirror these arrangements in offshore processing jurisdictions, through discussions with our regional partners conducting the assessments in these countries.”

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