Oz visa check op­er­a­tion dumped af­ter com­mu­nity out­rage

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

A ma­jor op­er­a­tion to spot check peo­ple’s visas on the streets of Mel­bourne as part of a crime crack­down was can­celled Fri­day af­ter spark­ing com­mu­nity out­rage that Aus­tralia risked be­com­ing “a po­lice state.”

The con­tro­versy erupted af­ter the Aus­tralian Bor­der Force (ABF) re­leased a state­ment on Fri­day say­ing its of­fi­cers would join po­lice and trans­port of­fi­cials at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions this week­end to speak “with any in­di­vid­ual we cross paths with” to iden­tify visa fraud­sters.

“You need to be aware of the con­di­tions of your visa; if you com­mit visa fraud you should know it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore you’re caught out,” said ABF Re­gional Com­man­der for Vic­to­ria and Tas­ma­nia, Don Smith.

The ABF, part of the Immigration Depart­ment, said the fo­cus would be on peo­ple trav­el­ling to, from and around the city “tar­get­ing ev­ery­thing from anti-so­cial be­hav­iour to out­stand­ing war­rants.”

But the news spurred an online storm with users ques­tion­ing how they would de­cide who to stop and whether it would tar­get those of for­eign ap­pear­ance.

“Great... so that’s that then... Just stop any­one that looks like a mi­grant and de­mand their pa­pers,” one ne­ti­zen, Senor Snap, tweeted.

Un­der the Mi­gra­tion Act, an of­fi­cer may ask a per­son they know, or rea­son­ably sus­pects, is a nonci­t­i­zen to show their ID, proof of cit­i­zen­ship or visa.

Greens MP for Mel­bourne Adam Bandt warned the op­er­a­tion would threaten Mel­bourne’s rep­u­ta­tion.

“How will the Bor­der Force dis­tin­guish be­tween lo­cals, visi­tors and visa hold­ers?” he asked re­porters.

“Will ev­ery per­son in Mel­bourne now be asked to show their pa­pers as they move about the city? Or will they only be stop­ping peo­ple with cer­tain skin col­ors?”

As the back­lash grew, the ABF is­sued a sec­ond “clar­i­fy­ing” state­ment, deny­ing it would stop peo­ple at ran­dom and that it would only con­duct back­ground visa checks on in­di­vid­u­als re­ferred by po­lice and other agen­cies.

“The ABF does not and will not stop peo­ple at ran­dom in the streets and does not tar­get on the ba­sis of race, re­li­gion, or eth­nic­ity,” it said.

By then, a crowd of sev­eral hun­dred protesters had shut down a main in­ter­sec­tion in the heart of Mel­bourne, chant­ing “no to racism, no to hate, this is not a po­lice state.”

Vic­to­ria

Po­lice

quickly aban- doned the op­er­a­tion af­ter a planned press con­fer­ence on the op­er­a­tion was can­celled, cit­ing safety is­sues.

“We un­der­stand there has been a high level of com­mu­nity in­ter­est and con­cern which has been taken into con­sid­er­a­tion when mak­ing this de­ci­sion,” po­lice said.

“Vic­to­ria Po­lice’s pri­or­ity is the safety and well-be­ing of the whole com­mu­nity and we will con­tinue to work with our part­ner agen­cies to achieve this.”

Fed­eral In­de­pen­dent MP An­drew Wilkie warned the gov­ern­ment wanted to turn Aus­tralia into a “po­lice state.”

“The com­mu­nity was out­raged at the prospect of the ran­dom visa checks and should re­main in­censed with the gov­ern­ment for think­ing such an ac­tiv­ity would be ac­cept­able in the first place,” he said.

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