Paying asylum seekers who return home voluntarily has been standard practice for more than 10 years, the Federal Government says, amid reports some are being offered as much as $10,000 to return to their country of origin.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s office will not confirm individual dollar figures, saying they are determined on a case-by-case basis.
Fairfax Media is reporting Lebanese asylum seekers have been given $10,000 to leave Australia’s offshore processing centres on Manus Island and Nauru and return home.
The reports say “return packages” for Iranians amount to $7,000, while Afghans are offered $4,000.
A total of 283 asylum seekers have voluntarily returned to their home countries since Operation Sovereign Borders commenced last September, a spokesperson for Mr Morrison said.
“Return packages are tailored to the circumstances of each case. The process of voluntary return is conducted in direct partnership with the International Organisation for Migration,” the spokesperson said.
“It has been standard policy and practice for more than 10 years.”
But Greens leader Christine Milne says the payments are wrong because returning asylum seekers could face persecution.
“[Paying] people to go back to torture, to abuse, is disgraceful. There’s no way you could describe this as voluntary,” she said
It comes a day after the High Court struck down a law which allowed the Government to cap the number of protection visas it issues for refugees in Australia.
The ruling followed separate applications to the court from two asylum seekers – an Ethiopian boy and a Pakistani man – who were found to be refugees but denied protection visas because of the cap.
Mr Morrison capped the number of protection visas granted in the financial year at 2,773 after the Senate blocked the Government’s re-introduction of temporary protection visas.
The High Court found the Minister did not have the power to limit the number of visas issued within a specific financial year.
The court has ordered Mr Morrison reconsider the asylum seekers’ applications for protection.
Meanwhile, the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide has passed 51 million, the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed this week, the highest level since World War Two.
The UNHCR said there are 6 million more refugees than last year, primarily due to escalating crises in Syria and multiple parts of Africa.
Worldwide, nearly 17 million people are refugees, more than 1 million have open asylum applications and a record 33.3 million people are internally displaced.