24 Irish in Australian detention centre awaiting deportation
300 Irish deported from Australia every year according to latest figures
An immigration detention centre in Australia. Photograph: AFP / Torsten Blackwood
A group of 24 Irish people are in a Western Australian detention centre awaiting deportation after seven of them were caught up in alleged roofing and repair scams.
Five men and two teenagers, both aged 17, were arrested after allegedly posing as employees of another legitimate roof repair business and attempting to scam elderly residents in the suburbs of Perth.
Local police said on Friday that a further 19 Irish nationals – all women and children – had been detained by the department of immigration and border protection.
“All 26 of these overseas nationals have had their visas cancelled and they are remanded pending deportation to Ireland, ” a police spokeswoman said. However, two were subsequently released.
Police, searching in several caravans at a tourist park in the suburb of Hazelmere on Thursday morning, seized trucks, building equipment, two Rolex watches and AU$120,000 (€84,554) in cash. They then notified immigration officials.
Alina Cavanagh, spokeswoman for the Western Australia department of commerce, said she had received numerous reports of traders with Irish accents attempting to rip off homeowners.
Western Australia’s consumer protection agency said it had received 39 reports of travelling traders relating to the alleged scam, 29 of which were made after it issued the public warning.
An elderly man said he had paid AU$17,000 (€11,987) to the men to have his home and driveway painted. They allegedly painted the driveway but did not return to finish the job. Another senior citizen paid AU$12,000 (€8,500) to have a roof repaired but said the task was not completed. In some cases the homeowner said the men had damaged their roofs.
In several incidents, the men allegedly went to a bank with the elderly customers and waited while they withdrew the cash to pay them.
While there are no specific figures for how much it would cost to remove an Irish person from Australia, the department of immigration says on average it costs around AU$5,000 (€3,544) to deport someone from the country.
In addition, the Australian government will pay for a flight to the deportee’s home country if the person can’t afford to pay for it.
In the case of the 24 Irish people currently awaiting deportation from Perth, the authorities may not have to wait to secure a conviction.
“You can be deported if you breach your visa conditions, such as by working or overstaying your visa,” a spokeswoman for the Australian government told The Irish Times.
“It does not necessarily come down to having a conviction,” she said.