Tony Abbott is planning to charge refugees $19,000 to fast-track their visa application

Photo: Stefan Postles/ Getty Images.

The federal government has come up with a proposal to help refugees fast-track their visa applications and be reunited with loved ones in Australia.

And it’s available for $19,000.

In a bid to cut down resettlement costs, the Abbott government has suggested a scheme that allows refugees to apply for a humanitarian visa if friends and family can provide “significant financial support” towards their resettlement, the SMH reports.

The scheme is based on a former Labor pilot in 2013 which allowed families already living in Australia to pay $19,124 for the first refugee and $2680 for every applicant after that.

But as part of the new discussion paper, the Australian government could ask relatives to assure that they would repay health and Centrelink costs incurred by refugees during their first few years of settlement — which could be in the form of a bank deposit.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has denied claims that refugees will be able to “buy” a visa with the government suggesting that the cost will actually be lower than providing long-term support to family members overseas.

But Chief executive of Refugee Council of Australia, Paul Power, has described the proposals as being “really about the Australian-based family paying a large sum of money to the Department of Immigration.”

In addition to paying the application fee, relatives will also need to account for airfare costs, medical checks as well as payments towards community organisation to help resettlement.

“It definitely does advantage refugees who have relatives in Australia with financial means over people who otherwise would have been resettled on the basis of humanitarian need,” Power told Fairfax.

“The government has saved money by getting the families of refugees to pay expenses that previously would have come out of Treasury.”

As of March this year, the government has raised more than $2 million from charging the relatives of the 670 people who have already taken advantage of the pilot scheme.

This fast-tracking scheme will not apply to illegal immigrants including those who have arrived by unauthorised boats.

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