The Abbott government is offering asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru detention centres up to $10,000 to abandon their hope of resettlement in Australia and voluntarily return to the country they fled from.
The revelation comes as the High Court on Friday issued a stunning rebuke to the Abbott government's border protection policy, striking down its decision to to refuse to issue permanent protection visas to boat arrivals found to be refugees.
In two unanimous decisions, with implications for thousands of boat arrivals, the court ruled that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's decision to impose a cap on the number of places in Australia's refugee intake for boat arrivals was invalid.
The sudden boost in payments is the latest tactic being used by the Abbott government to cement its hardline stance against asylum seekers who come to Australia without a visa.
In what are dubbed as "return packages", the Coalition has dramatically increased monetary incentives for asylum seekers to return home that range from $3300 to $10,000 based on "individual circumstances", compared with Labor's offering of between $1500 and $2000 last year.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Friday showed Australia's efforts to help alleviate the crisis have stagnated or worsened, with the country sliding backwards in the global rankings, according to some measures.
Australia now ranks 17th in the world to resettle refugees, according to the Refugee Council of Australia.
Asylum seekers who take up the cash offer are transported to the Hideaway Hotel in Port Moresby that is paid for by the International Organisation of Migration before being flown back to their country of origin.
Fairfax Media understands Lebanese asylum seekers are being paid $10,000 if they voluntarily return to Lebanon, while Iranians and Sudanese are being offered $7000, Afghans are being given $4000 and Pakistani, Nepalese and Burmese asylum seekers are receiving $3300.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that 283 people had voluntarily returned home since September 2013.
It is understood the payments, which are administered by the IOM but funded by the Australian Immigration Department, are made once the asylum seeker has returned to their home country.
Mr Morrison said the packages were tailored to each individual case. "The process of voluntary return is conducted in direct partnership with the International Organisation for Migration which has extensive experience in such matters worldwide," a spokesman for Mr Morrison said. "All such returns are voluntary. The IOM does not facilitate involuntary returns," he said.
Yet in a motion before the Senate, the Greens are urging the government to put a moratorium on sending asylum seekers back to Iraq, where a violent uprising continues to swallow the country.
It is not known whether any money has been offered to Iraqi asylum seekers to leave the centres. Only two days before the violent clashes in the north of the country, an Iraqi man on a bridging visa was forced back to Basra, Iraq by the Australian government, it was revealed on Friday.
Human rights groups and advocates are outraged at the incentives being offered, saying Australia should not be paying people to return to the countries that they fled from.
The Australia Director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, said Australia was not alone in facing the problem of increasing global migration.
"By making the conditions in Manus and Nauru so awful that people are encouraged to go back to active conflict zones, you are putting them in danger and quite likely, they'll simply have to leave," she said.