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Exmouth people smugglers jailed.



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Media Release

SENATOR THE HON. CHRISTOPHER ELLISON

Minister for Justice and Customs Senator for Western Australia

19 September 2001

Exmouth People Smugglers Jailed Nine Sri Lankan people smugglers convicted of bringing 24 illegal immigrants to Australia in April this year were today sentenced to up to 5 ½ years in jail.

Minister for Justice and Customs and Senator for Western Australia, Chris Ellison, said the sentences sent a clear message to people smugglers that they would face the full weight of the law if caught.

"People smuggling is a serious crime that threatens the integrity of Australia’s borders," Senator Ellison said.

"The nine convicted criminals sentenced today for people smuggling received sentences ranging from 5 ½ years imprisonment for the Captain, to 3 ½ years imprisonment for the crew," Senator Ellison said.

"When you add up the sentences of all involved in this illegal people smuggling operation, jail time totals 28 years."

Senator Ellison said the Howard Government had substantially increased coastal patrols to detect illegal arrivals before they reached the Australian migration zone.

"The Howard Government is committed to patrolling our coastline and has doubled surveillance activities off the north-west Coast of Western Australia. An extra 50 flights per month are now operating in the area, and two of our high-tech Customs Bay Class vessels are on patrol in the waters off the north-west coast working in close cooperation with the Navy," Senator Ellison said.

"This week I will be taking through the Senate further measures to combat people smuggling including the introduction of a minimum sentence of 5 years for first time people smugglers, to give our judges a clear indication of the Government’s resolve on the seriousness of this matter."

Senator Ellison praised the efforts of the Australian Federal Police, Department of Immigration Officials and Customs Coastwatch for the successful operation that led to the capture and arrest of the people smugglers aboard the Maria Naranjani.

"I want to congratulate all those involved in this operation which has led to the successful arrest and prosecution of these suspected people smugglers," Senator Ellison said.