Nearly three lakh Indians migrated and settled in Australia between 2000 and 2016, according to latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. So it stands to reason that visa scams are plentiful, too. Yesterday, the Australian High Commission in the country cautioned Indian nationals planning to shift to Australia against organised contrived marriage scams targeting South Asians.
The warning came after Australian Border Force (ABF) shut down a contrived marriages syndicate operating out of Sydney, with a 32-year-old Indian national facing court over his alleged role as the main facilitator. Four Australian citizens are also facing charges of convincing individuals to fraudulently marry non-citizens seeking to obtain permanent residency, the Australian High Commission in the national capital said on Monday.
In a statement titled 'warning about fake marriage scams', the High Commission said the long-running operation by the ABF had resulted in 164 foreign nationals having their applications for a "partner visa" refused after they were linked to the syndicate.
"None of the participants in this scam obtained permanent residency," read the statement. "Some of these clients paid significant amounts of money, for no immigration outcome. While contrived marriages are not unique to any one nationality, this particular syndicate was attempting to illegally facilitate fake marriages with non-citizens in the South Asian community."
According to ABF Acting Investigations Commander Clinton Sims, such syndicates undermine the integrity of Australia's visa programme and exploit desperate individuals. In fact, as the High Commission in Delhi noted, these types of scams generally target vulnerable young Australian women, many of whom come from disadvantaged and low socio-economic backgrounds.
"Many of the women involved in these scams have suffered a history of substance abuse, family violence and financial hardship, and are lured in with promises of substantial payments," Sims told The Times of India. "Protecting the integrity of the visa system is an operational priority for the ABF and anyone found to be involved in or facilitating sham marriages should expect to be investigated and face criminal prosecution. Registered agents and marriage celebrants also face losing their registration."
The daily added that the ABF has also been successful in combating contrived marriages in Victoria, with one individual being sentenced to six months imprisonment for fraud offences against the Migration Act.
With PTI inputs
(Edited by Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal)