Scam migration agents referred to AFP

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram A company offering help to potential migrants to Australia, which has been the focus of vigorous complaints worldwide, has been referred by the Australian Government’s Immigration Department to the Australian Federal Police. The referral follows appeals to the Greek Government by Greek MPs to investigate widespread allegations against Ausfis, a company that has been offering Greek citizens assistance to migrate to Australia, through its website www.ausfis.org. The Greek police and the Australian Embassy in Athens have received a number of complaints about the Cyprus linked company in the last month. Research carried out by Neos Kosmos suggests that question marks over the company’s credibility are nothing new. A string of complaints about Ausfis have been posted on Internet forums which share users’ experiences of migration agents and visa issues. The posts allege that having gained credit card details over the phone, Ausfis have debited accounts without the cardholder’s permission and ignored requests for refunds. The posts also refer to misleading and overly aggressive sales techniques, and escalating demands for cash, often couched in manipulative terms. The system Ausfis employs is to ask for an upfront cash payment to ‘open an application’, followed by further cash demands to research and complete a visa application using unnamed advisers nominated by the company. Ausfis customers are told that the company uses expert and registered migration agents to increase the likelihood of a successful application for a visa, but experiences shared by Ausfis customers on the Internet reveal a catalogue of allegations about the company’s practices in recent years.The company has claimed to use migration agents registered with the Australian Government’s Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA), but have allegedly ignored requests to back this assertion up with any evidence. Stefanos Tsamis, an ex-policeman who lives in Athens, spoke to Neos Kosmos about his recent experience of dealing with Ausfis. Tsamis gave his contact information to the company on their website earlier this month, after which an Ausfis representative telephoned him. “They told me they were calling from Australia and promised to get me a job there. They then asked me for my credit card details and 149 euro ($194) to initiate the process, without asking for any information on my situation, my profession or qualifications.” At this point, Tsamis decided to pause the process. He made a note of the international code which the Ausfis call had been made from. “It was from Venezuela,” said Tsamis. At that point Tsamis contacted the Australian Embassy in Athens and his local Member of Parliament who brought it to the attention of government ministers. Last week Neos Kosmos tried to contact the company at the Australian address it promotes on its website to ask for a response to the allegations. Ausfis’ Australian telephone number as given on the company’s website was not connected. Neos Kosmos also visited the Melbourne CBD address, also promoted on their website, Level 27,101 Collins Street. A receptionist for Servcorp, the international office accommodation management company who operate the suite of offices on Level 27, confirmed that Ausfis was a ‘virtual client’ accommodated at the Melbourne CBD address. Virtual clients, often based overseas, pay $330 a month to have an Australian ‘office’.Research undertaken by Neos Kosmos reveals the international nature of Ausfis’ operations is significant and complex. Ausfis’ website suggests that the company has strong links to Cyprus. In the ‘Terms’ page of the Ausfis website is an 11,000 word document which purports to legally protect Ausfis’ worldwide dealings. In Clause 25 of the document, ‘Terms of Use – Governing Law Dispute Resolution’, the company asserts that “any dispute with the company will be governed by the laws of Cyprus without regard to its conflict of laws provisions,” and [sic] “the personal jurisdiction by and venue in the District Court in Larnaka, Cyprus.” Statements from the company shared on the Internet discussion forum BritishExpats.com say that it uses telemarketing call centres in the United States, Israel, and India. The reason behind the Cyprus connection is likely to be the country’s lax regulatory systems says Tony Anamourlis, Special Counsel to Melbourne’s LAC Lawyers. “By signing the user agreement the user is consenting, if a dispute arises, that the action must be bought in the Cyprus courts. It would be difficult for someone in Australia to take action in a dispute, but perhaps not in Greece”. Ausfis, and a second company Usafis (which offers similar assistance to migrate to the US) are affiliates of a US based company called DSNR. When asked to comment on allegations against Ausfis, a Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) spokesperson told Neos Kosmos: “The department has received several complaints regarding Ausfis, and based on the issues raised, has published consumer information on our website. In addition, the department has distributed information to all its offices overseas. These matters are related to an international organisation not based in Australia, and DIAC has referred the information to the Australian Federal Police.” DIAC reiterated that people wishing to migrate to Australia do not need to use a migration agent to apply for any visa and that the applicants should only use the official website www.immi.gov.au for enquiries on application processes for any kind of visa and the application itself. If a potential applicant wishes to use a migration agent, the agent should be registered with MARA.last_img read more