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A year of stronger borders

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Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

Scott Morrison MP

A year of stronger borders

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Coalition Government is delivering stronger borders under Operation Sovereign Borders, ensuring we are meeting our commitment to the Australian people to stop illegal boat arrivals, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison said today.

'Today marks the first anniversary of the commencement of Operation Sovereign Borders, ably led by Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell. One year on, the boats are stopping,' Minister Morrison said.

'The mission is never fully accomplished and we must maintain constant vigilance, but we have done what we said we would do to stop the boats, we have done it in the way we said we would do it and we are getting the results we said we would get.

'There has been just one people smuggling venture over the past nine months to make it to Australia, with all its passengers transferred to the country of Nauru, and importantly there have been no deaths at sea.

'The success of Operation Sovereign Borders is the product of the dedication, professionalism and compassion of those men and women from 16 different agencies who serve in this Operation. We have always believed in their ability to get this job done under the right leadership and the right policies, and that is what is being achieved, to their great credit.

'There were a total of 401 successful people smuggling ventures with 26 543 people on board under the former Labor government in the year preceding Operation Sovereign Borders - 18 September 2012 to 17 September 2013.

'There have been 23 ventures with 1 265 people on board under Operation Sovereign Borders - 18 September 2013 to 17 September 2014. All but one venture arrived before the Coalition Government introduced turning back boats in late December 2013.

'A total of 45 ventures have been stopped before they even set sail through disruption operations with partner countries and 12 ventures, with 383 people on board, have been turned back at sea, as we promised we would do. The first safe turn back occurred on 19 December 2013 and the most recent on 20 May this year. Four of the turn backs involved the use of lifeboats.

'There have been no deaths at sea since last year compared with over 300 missing, confirmed or presumed deaths at sea in the year prior to OSB under the Labor government.

'The number of children in held detention is down by more than 40 per cent. More than $2.5 billion has been saved from the collapse in illegal arrivals and we are closing the detention centres Labor opened.

'Operation Sovereign Borders is delivering a humanitarian dividend. No longer are people waiting offshore to access our refugee and humanitarian programme having had their places taken by those who came illegally by boat. The government has freed 20 000 places for offshore entrants under our Special Humanitarian Programme over five years. Our programme will deliver 4 400 places to those affected by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq this year alone.

'In addition under Operation Sovereign Borders - over 1 600 potential illegal immigrants (PIIs) have been disrupted in countries including Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia before they could attempt to travel to Australia by illegal boat.

'The number of IMAs who have returned or been removed has grown from less than 500 in the year prior under Labor to almost 1 400 under the Coalition Government.

'Six years ago Labor abolished the border protection policies that worked under John Howard. In the five years that followed more than 50 000 people illegally entered Australia on more than 800 boats.

'Fifteen thousand people waiting offshore, seeking our protection, were denied places in our humanitarian programme and worst of all almost 1 200 people died at sea.

'The cost blowout for the taxpayer was more than $11.5 billion. Labor ran a building the detention centre revolution that could never keep pace with the demand. The number of children in held detention peaked at almost 2 000.

'Prior to the election Labor said the Coalition's border policies would not work. They were wrong. They and all those who shared their view have been proven wrong by the hundreds of Australians who serve as part of Operation Sovereign Borders, whose dedication, professionalism and compassion have secured this result.

'People smugglers have crawled back under the rock they came from. But they will emerge again if given the opportunity, which Labor would certainly provide.

'Labor are still not convinced of the effectiveness of the Coalition's border protection regime and never will be,' Minister Morrison said.