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Asylum-seekers caught in $4bn welfare crackdown

4 January 2017
Rick Morton
The Australian

Asylum-seekers on temporary visas have been caught up in the federal government’s $4 billion welfare debt recovery controv­ersy, with some being told they owe thousands in allegedly overpaid money and risk their future residency if they don’t give it back.

The Australian has obtained letters relating to one case where an asylum-seeker from Afghanistan was issued with a debt notice for almost $2000 apparently incurred when he was working part-time two years ago.

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DHS has three debt recovery agencies contracted for almost $18 million until 2019 to help chase money it says was overpaid. The largest of these, Dun & Bradstreet, has a contract for $10.8m. In 2013-14 it recovered almost $62m from 33,226 clients for which it received a bonus of $6.8m.

A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said: “Where people receive public money to which they are not entitled, it is a requirement for government departments to recover those moneys.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services said 15,000 debt recovery notices had been issued to asylum-seekers since April 2014.