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Has the Government put people smugglers back in business?



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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Federal Member for Murray Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Media enquiries: C. R. Evans (Mr), 0417 148 110

Has the Government put people smugglers back in business?

THE Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Dr Sharman Stone, is awaiting advice on whether 14 unlawful non-citizens yesterday intercepted in the Ashmore Islands were being smuggled into Australia.

“Since there is no suggestion that the crew of two and 12 passengers were fishers, there is a strong chance that people smugglers are fully testing the water in response to the Rudd Government’s recent weakening of border protection rules,” Dr Stone said.

Immigration and Citizenship Minister, Senator Chris Evans, stated in a Budget media release on 13 May that: “from early 2008-09, people found to be refugees will receive a permanent visa, regardless of their mode of arrival.”

“Prior to this, unauthorised arrivals could expect to be given only temporary visas in the first instance,” Dr Stone said.

“Now, Minister Evans’ weak words may have been interpreted by international people smugglers to mean that Australia's borders are again porous.

Unfortunately there are hundreds, if not thousands, who have the contacts and funds to pay the $20,000-$40,000 it may cost to fly to Indonesia and then be pushed off from her shores in a leaky boat headed for Ashmore Reef, Dr Stone said.

“The former Coalition government’s changes to border protection policy - including the excising of off-shore islands from immigration zones - caused the number of unlawful entrants to Australia to dwindle from some 12,000 in the 30 months to January 2002 to just 250 in the years since then,” Dr Stone said.

“The people smugglers were basically put out of business.

“Senator Evans must publicly reinstate border protection and immigration controls and the continuation of the excised immigration zones.

“He must immediately re-engage with Indonesian border security officials who worked cooperatively and efficiently with the former Coalition government.

“But more importantly, Minister Evans must insist that Prime Minister Rudd puts back the $67.4 million stripped out of the critical area of border security and immigration processing. At least 221 departmental officers have been lost from key roles.

“The departmental cost-cutting and demoralisation must stop.”