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Few asylum seekers taking $6000 to return home

The Abbott government is offering Iraqi asylum seekers $6000 to leave Manus Island and Nauru. It is also offering voluntary return packages to Syrian asylum seekers, although no one has taken up the offer since 2008.

Asylum seekers who want to return to their country of origin, including to war zones, are required to sign a statement stating that they ''understand the current situation in their country of return'', a spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said.

Fairfax Media understands that fewer than 10 Iraqi asylum seekers have taken up the offer this month.

''It is extremely inappropriate and dangerous that the government is offering payments to Syrians,'' Graeme McGregor from Amnesty International said. Mr Morrison told 2GB Radio on Monday that 283 people had returned home since September.

He said it was cheaper to offer voluntary return packages than to keep asylum seekers in detention centres or on bridging visas.

''These packages are a small fraction of the cost of supporting an asylum seeker in the community on a bridging visa, estimated at an average of $45,000 per year.''

Fairfax Media understands that accommodation and travel costs are covered by the International Migration Organisation, while the extra payments come from the Immigration Department.

On Monday a Greens-led moratorium on deporting Iraqi asylum seekers back to Iraq failed in the Senate.

Sarah Whyte