Fake religious claims emerging among visa applications in Australia

by Ray Clancy on June 6, 2017

in Australia Immigration

Questions are being asked about fake religion being used to get access to living in Australia with the immigration department confirming people who are found to have lied on their visa application face deportation.

In particular asylum seekers have been found to be claiming they are Coptic Christians when they are not. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has said it will deport 80 who claim to be Coptic Christians but have failed to prove their claim for a protection visa.


And Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said that while no one would be deported who genuinely faces harm, there is an issue around fake religious claims. He told a Sydney radio station that each case would be thoroughly examined. ‘We’re not going to send people back into harm’s way, we don’t do that,’ he told 2GB radio.

‘But we just have some cases where we’re concerned about where the court, for example, has found that the application is fraudulent. We’re not going to deport anyone until we can have another look at each of the cases. But in some cases, we do have concerns about the legitimacy of the claims made,’ he added.

It is believed that a number of Muslims applying for asylum and visas have converted to Christianity in the belief it will help their claim. But there are also those doing so while having no intention of embracing their new religion once established in the country.

The Administrative and Appeals Tribunal, which reviews decisions made by officers of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to refuse or cancel visas and also reviews decisions relating to approval and cancellation of sponsorship and nomination, has found that many asylum seekers deliberately lie on their visa applications.

But it has been criticised for not rejecting such applications on numerous occasions. But it is hard to find out which are being rejected and which are not as not all decisions are made public.

However, a recent decision earlier this year rejected an application for a protection visa from a man who had arrived on a student visa and his wife who arrived subsequently who claimed that as he had worked for a Christian organisation in Australia he could not return to the Middle East as he would be regarded as a traitor.

The couple were found that have created a web of lies about where they used to live in Tripoli, that they would be targeted by extremists if they returned. They also claimed relatives had been shot at therefore it was not safe. He also said that he would be seen as having converted to Christianity which would put his life in danger.

In other cases the AAT has upheld refusals to grant visas on the grounds of applicants being vague and lacking credibility.

However, Dutton has signalled that he is not happy with some of the decision making. The AAT assessed 11,300 visa decisions in the 12 months to April 2017, overturning 39% of Dutton’s decisions. Now he is reviewing the contracts of more than 50 of its 300 plus members.

Dutton does have the authority to overrule the decisions of the AAT in visa cases on character grounds. New sections were introduced into the migration act by former immigration minister Scott Morrison to give the minister greater powers to overrule AAT decisions.

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