Refugee inquiry to tackle backlog
December 13, 2011
THE former attorney-general Michael Lavarch will conduct an independent review of the refugee and migration tribunals amid a backlog of cases and allegations that the process is being abused.
The matter has become urgent as thousands more asylum seekers are set to be funnelled into the Refugee Review Tribunal from early next year, as the separate system for assessing boat arrivals is scrapped.
An internal memo announcing Professor Lavarch's appointment was circulated within the Immigration Department yesterday, pointing to a surge in overseas students appealing visa knock-backs and sponsored family fighting to stay in Australia as two reasons for the backlog.
Advertisement: Story continues below ''The increasing delays result in uncertainty for applicants and provide an incentive for others to misuse the review process to extend their stay in Australia,'' the memo said.
In November, less than half of Refugee Review Tribunal cases (47 per cent) had been completed within the 90-day standard, while a third of Migration Review Tribunal cases were more than a year old.
The principal member of the tribunals, Denis O'Brien, had complained in the tribunals' annual report it would be a ''significant challenge'' for them to meet targets this year.
The migration tribunal deals with business, bridging visa and student visa refusals. Most cases lodged with the refugee tribunal - which only deals with plane arrivals - were from China, Fiji and India. There was a 31 per cent leap in new cases before the refugee tribunal and a 24 per cent increase in new cases before the migration tribunal last year.
Professor Lavarch is expected to report by the end of January 2012. The Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said: ''This independent review will identify what changes could be made to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of both the MRT and RRT.''
The refugee tribunal lost members last year to the boat arrival system, which has been plagued by its own difficulties.
Two out of three visa refusals handed out by the boat system have later been overturned in the Federal Magistrates Court on the grounds of lack of fairness.
The court has also ruled that a key reviewer assessing boat arrivals appeared to be biased against Afghan Hazaras and has injuncted the Immigration Department from using the reviewer's decision.
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