THE actions of a Sydney migration agent who told a client to falsely claim he was gay in his application for a protection visa could lead genuine LGBTI asylum seekers to have their applications denied, an immigration expert has told the Star Observer.
Earlier this month, the Federal Government’s Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) branded solicitor Issam Sam Issa “not a person of integrity” and barred him from acting as a migration agent for five years for failing to carry out his role “diligently and honestly”.
“To support the claims for his visa application, Mr E claimed that the agent took him to Oxford Street, Kings Cross [sic],” the report said.
The report also said that the supporting documentation for the visa supplied by Issa included information that refereed to Sydney gay venues as well as Helem, a Lebanon-based LGBTI advocacy group, “which Mr E had no knowledge of when questioned by the Tribunal”.
Far from helping his clients, MARA said the striking similarities between the applications lodged by Issa meant they stood out as being potentially fraudulent.
Issa denied the allegations, saying Mr E was a “habitual” liar motivated by personal gain and clients with similar backgrounds would naturally have similar applications.
Refugee and Casework Service (RACS) principal solicitor Katie Wrigley told the Star Observer the actions of unethical migration agents make it tougher for people with genuine claims.
“It’s [already] a very difficult process for clients to go through and the fact that this has happened creates doubt in the minds of Australian decision makers as to whether other applicants are genuine,” she said.
Wrigley added that migration agents acting “unethically or lazily” had led to genuine claims being turned down, very few which are ever reviewed.
“The fact that the agent appears to have acted unethically doesn’t in anyway change the very real difficulty homosexual people or transgender people have in pursuing their cases and the very real dangers that exist for them in their country,” she said.
Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Michaelia Cash said Issa’s conduct “fell well short of the standards set out under the code of conduct for registered migration agents and he posed a serious risk to consumers”.
“Fraudulent visa applications attempt to undermine the integrity of Australia’s immigration system – fraudsters should understand that under this government they will be pursued and they will be brought to justice,” Cash said.
The Immigration Department told the Star Observer they were examining Issa’s visa applications to determine whether a fraud review should take place.
Click here to read MARA’s full decision.