Former Australian immigration official claims widespread visa fraud

A former Australian immigration department official came out this week claiming that the country's immigration system is subject to widespread fraud, with hundreds of people apparently lying about their nationality to gain a visa.

A former department official who had worked at the Australian high commission in Islamabad said that there was "endemic fraud" in Australia's immigration system, and claimed it happened "on a daily basis". The official said she used to process visa applications at the mission in Pakistan and wanted to expose the extent of the fraud in the region.

According to the official, the most common problem was Pakistani nationals posing as nationals of Afghanistan and then fraudulently applying for Australian visas. She claimed some visa applicants in Pakistan purchase identification documents at the local Afghan consulate in Pakistan, before applying for a visa in Australia.

"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 anonymous immigration department official claimed that some immigrants who received Australian citizenship would sponsor people they falsely claimed to be family members.

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

According to immigration official Marion Le, she was aware of cases where Pakistani immigrants had passed themselves off as Afghans. She also went onto say that the Australian immigration department is overburdened with work dealing with a backlog of immigration appeal cases. This means that the immigration department has less time to check for fraudulent visa applications.

"Some people think as long as they're here they can stay in the community on their false identities and that is, I think, a very big concern for Australia because we have no way of knowing who these people are," Le said.

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