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Immigration smashes smuggling ring.



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Media Release

 

The Hon. Philip Ruddock MP

Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

 

MPS 46/99

IMMIGRATION SMASHES SMUGGLING RING

 

The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs has smashed a sophisticated Sydney-based people smuggling ring that has been bringing Iraqi nationals to Australia illegally.

 

Announcing the successful operation, the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Philip Ruddock, said the network had provided bogus documents to Iraqi nationals for between US$5,000 and US$10,000.

 

Mr Ruddock said most of those who tried to enter Australia as part of the scam were family members or friends of the organisers who, on arrival, asked the Australian Government for protection.

 

“Every person that arrives in Australia illegally costs the taxpayer around $60,000. It must also be remembered that every unmeritorious claim that succeeds in Australia deprives a place from those who abide by the law and try to enter Australia legally.

 

“Australia will not allow queue-jumpers to push in ahead of genuine refugees, and my Department is doing everything to expose these people-smuggling rackets.’

 

Mr Ruddock said the Department’s latest action, conducted with the Australian Federal Police, had had a major impact on the trafficking of illegal entrants to Australia from the Middle East.

 

“Between 1 January 1997 and 19 June 1998, 183 Iraqi nationals were refused entry at Australian ports as they were travelling on false documents. The majority of these people were traced to the organisers of this scam.

 

“During the first half of this financial year alone, we have seen unauthorised arrivals from Iraq overtake those from China, traditionally the largest source country for illegal entrants to Australia. This period has seen 154 illegal Iraqi arrivals, compared to 87 from China.”

 

The Minister outlined the six-month operation:

 

·  A departmental officer posted at Bangkok Airport saw a group of five men including the organiser — attempting to swap boarding passes just prior to boarding.

 

·  The Department then used airline passenger and booking records, as well as reports by airline inspectors, to link organisers to the arrival of a number of Iraqi nationals who had entered Australia on falsified passports.

 

·  Charges were ultimately laid after searches of the suspect’s homes found stolen and photo-substituted foreign passports, falsified Iraqi identity documents and documents with Australian visas removed.

 

·  One man was arrested in October after documents linking him to people smugglers in Thailand were found in his home. He has been charged with four counts of bringing non-citizens into Australia illegally.

 

·  A further nine people pleaded guilty and were convicted. They have received sentences that include significant fines, community service and periods of imprisonment.

 

Mr Ruddock said the latest smuggling operation is just one of many his department has exposed. Other rackets uncovered include:

 

·  Some Chinese nationals travelling on stolen Taiwanese passports.

 

·  A number of Korean deaf mutes begging and extorting money.

 

Mr Ruddock said the successes were a direct result of the Department’s pro-active approach to people smuggling.

 

“My department has introduced a number of initiatives aimed at stopping such schemes.

 

“As part of our strategy, we have stationed officers both in Australia and at key overseas posts and transit airports such as Beijing, Bangkok, Jakarta and Guangzhou - who are specially trained to detect false documentation.

 

‘Because people smuggling is of global concern, particularly among western countries such as Australia, the United States of America, Canada and certain parts of Europe, we work very closely with our international partners.

 

‘The Department has multi-function task-forces overseas as well as in Australia. In fact it was the key role one of these played in an international investigation that led to the disruption of organised people smuggling rackets involving Sri Lankans”.

 

Between 1 July and 31 December 1998, 1046 people were refused entry at Australian airports, 37 per cent more than the 764 in the same period the previous year.

 

In the whole of 1997-98, around 1,555 people were refused entry at Australia’s airports. Over 75% were believed to have had their travel arrangements facilitated by traffickers, and 51% were found to have bogus documents.

 

In the same period, a total of 1 57 people arrived in Australia without authorisation by boat.

 

ENDS

Monday, 16 March 1999

 

Media Inquiries: Brad Robinson 0419 278 715

 

 

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