Almost 1,000 Irish visa overstayers have been forced to leave Australia in the past three years, according to figures released by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
That means on average an Irish national is sent packing almost every day after outstaying their visa terms.
The department revealed each overstayer costs an average of up to $5,000 to remove but could not provide a figure for the cost of removing the Irish nationals.
Since mid-2010, a total of 891 Irish overstayers have been removed under visa conditions after they came to the attention of the authorities.
“Unlawful non-citizens have no entitlement to remain in Australia and are expected to depart,” a statement from Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash’s office said.
“Where unlawful non-citizens refuse to leave Australia voluntarily, they may be detained and removed from Australia at the earliest practicable opportunity.”
The figures also revealed the number of Irish people being sent home from immigration detention centres has almost doubled within just three years. In the 2010-11 financial year, 16 Irish people were removed from these facilities.
This has increased to 29 in the past financial year, with a total of 72 over the three-year period.
The vast majority of the overstayers came under the category of “monitored departure from the community” as was used in the case of 776 Irish nationals. This covers people who are on bridging visas and still living in the community pending their departure from Australia. Assisted voluntary return (AVR) was provided to 43 Irish nationals over the three-year period.
The department stated that AVR is a more “cost-effective” method compared with enforced removal, as it costs between $1,400 to $1,500 a person.
AVR is offered to bridging visa E holders who wish to leave Australia but need financial assistance to do so. This can include airfares and assistance with a bus fare from the airport to their home. However, the applicant must be able to prove they are unable to fund their own return trip and want to leave Australia.
The department explained that the average cost per removal of the over-stayers is about $4,000 to $5,000 per person.
This is the average from the total removals during each financial year and does not include detention and case management costs.
“The cost of removal varies widely depending on the method of removal, final destination country, cost of airfares and the number of escorts used (if any),” the statement said.
The Australian government pays for the removal of overstayers if they do not have the financial means to pay for their own travel home.
However, they will not be eligible to apply for another visa to Australia until they pay the outstanding debt.
“Those that are involved in a ‘monitored departure’ from Australia have generally bought an air ticket home,” the statement said.
“As you can imagine, the percentage of those who leave a debt with the Australian government incurred as a result of their removal from Australia is extremely small.
“The overwhelming majority of those who come to Australia abide by their visa conditions and return home without incident.”
People who overstay their visa by more than 28 days may be prevented from being granted a temporary visa for Australia for three years.
The department encourages visa overstayers and other unlawful non-citizens to come forward and discuss their situation.
“The department uses a wide range of sources to locate unlawful non-citizens and people breaching their visa conditions,” it said. “Referrals may be made by employers, education institutions, departmental investigations, community infor-mation, police or other government agencies.”
The Department of Immigration, the Department of Human Services and the Australian Taxation Office share information to locate non-citizens who or employed illegally or claiming welfare payments.