December 1, 2006
AUSTRALIAN citizen Vivian Alvarez has received a “significant” compensation payout - last night reported as $4.5 million - for the 2001 Immigration Department blunder in which she was wrongfully deported to the Philippines.
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the significant award would allow Ms Alvarez, also known as Vivian Solon, to move on with her life. However, she said the amount paid to compensate Ms Solon for the “deeply regrettable” incident would remain confidential. “I’m very sorry that this happened,” Senator Vanstone said. “But it did happen, and the appropriate thing then was to set about as quickly and efficiently and as fairly as possible compensating Ms Solon.”
Extract from The Advertiser
December 7, 2006
THE latest reports on the Department of Immigration scandals which triggered the Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez Solon inquiries show that 10 Australian citizens, including children and the mentally ill, were detained as a result of "serious administrative deficiencies".
But even after Ombudsman investigations into about 140 of 247 alleged irregularities by the department, no official has been directly disciplined, the Herald has been told. Two of three officials recommended for disciplinary hearings as a result of the Solon case voluntarily resigned or retired. An independent inquiry cleared the third officer last month of breaches of the public service code of conduct.
A review of 10 children in detention - one for 282 days - released yesterday found that eight were Australian citizens or entitled to reside here, and their detention had resulted from mistakes including official confusion over the non-citizen status of their parents.
In Parliament the Prime Minister, John Howard, yesterday rejected Opposition calls that he take responsibility for the errors. "It's sadly the case mistakes are made … No administration is perfect." The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, defended the Government's response to the scandals, which were followed by the elevation of the then minister, Philip Ruddock, to Attorney-General, and the appointment of the department's then secretary, Bill Farmer, as ambassador to Indonesia. She blamed the problems on a decline in departmental systems "over a number of years".
The Ombudsman, John McMillan, said that while there had been many lapses by officials due to poor training, deficient record-keeping and incorrect exercise of powers, it would be wrong to single out individuals. Professor McMillan was speaking after releasing three reports into the wrongful detention of citizens, the mentally ill and children. He said the reports came as "a substantial reform program" was under way.
Extract from The Sydney Morning Herald