Immigration To Lift Game On Debt

Immigration to lift game on debt
April 02, 2008 07:40am
Article from: AAP

THE Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has agreed it needs to lift its game over the administration of costs charged against detained illegal immigrants.

It follows an investigation by Commonwealth Ombudsman John McMillan who found that overall DIAC was administering detention debt waiver and write-offs appropriately, although there was room for improvement.

DIAC secretary Andrew Metcalfe said the department had accepted all recommendations with some changes already in place.

The Migration Act requires that detained non-citizens have to pay the Government for the costs of their detention, including transportation and daily costs.

The sums can be substantial. In the year to June 30, 2007, DIAC sought payment of more than $28 million. It is empowered to write off money owed but only the Department of Finance can waive the debts.

In the report, Professor McMillan said his office launched the investigation in July last year following complaints which highlighted various areas of concern.

He said this administration needed to be of a high standard because a detention debt could have significant consequences for someone.

“We found that overall DIAC is administering detention debt waiver and write-off according to legislative and policy requirements,” he said.

“However, we also found scope for improvement in the timeliness and prioritisation in processing cases, the consistency and reasonableness of decisions on debt waiver and write-off, and in record keeping and communication with clients.”

Prof McMillan said DIAC should provide clear and consistent information about options and provide regular updates on the amount of their debt while in detention.

He made six recommendations, including that DIAC change its policies and practice on both management of debt waiver and debt write-off and review the circumstances of people in detention awaiting removal from Australia.

Mr Metcalfe said improvement to practices were under way.

“Our client notification letters will be more informative and will incorporate comprehensive and clear information relating to payment options,” he said.

“The letters will also include departmental contact details should the client require additional information, including options available should they be experiencing financial hardship.”