Ab­bott rules out ran­dom visa checks

The China Post - - ASIA -

Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott Satur­day dis­tanced him­self from a po­lice op­er­a­tion in Mel­bourne which was can­celed amid public out­rage about pos­si­ble spot checks on peo­ple’s visas, say­ing his of­fice had no prior knowl­edge of it.

The furore erupted Fri­day when the Aus­tralian Bor­der Force (ABF) is­sued a news re­lease say­ing its of­fi­cers would join po­lice and trans­port of­fi­cials in Mel­bourne city this week­end to speak “with any in­di­vid­ual we cross paths with” to iden­tify visa fraud­sters.

Ab­bott said, how­ever, the gov­ern­ment would never con­duct ran­dom spot checks on peo­ple’s visas on the streets as he dis­missed the press re­lease as “clumsy” and “over the top.”

“We would never stop peo­ple ran- domly in the street de­mand­ing their visa de­tails. We don’t do that sort of thing in Aus­tralia and it will never hap­pen un­der this gov­ern­ment,” he told re­porters in Syd­ney.

“Un­for­tu­nately the press re­lease was very, very badly worded but no one has been, no one ever will be, ran­domly stopped in the street for some kind of visa check.”

The orig­i­nal media re­lease sparked anger, with protesters gath­er­ing out­side Mel­bourne’s Flin­ders St. Sta­tion on Fri­day amid fears the op­er­a­tion would tar­get those of for­eign ap­pear­ance.

“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,” ABF re­gional com­man­der Don Smith said in the state­ment.

Ab­bott said his of­fice had been un­aware of the na­ture of the op­er­a­tion be­fore it was an­nounced, say­ing such re­leases went out all the time from gov­ern­ment agen­cies but were at arm’s length from min­is­ters and the ex­ec­u­tive gov­ern­ment.

He stressed that “noth­ing hap­pened here ex­cept the is­sue of a poorly worded press re­lease.”

“Vic­to­rian Po­lice, rou­tinely, if they sus­pect there could be a visa is­sue with some­one who they are ques­tion­ing, they re­fer it on to Aus­tralian Bor­der Force in the usual way and that’s all that was ever in­tended yesterday,” Ab­bott said.

The newly formed Aus­tralian Bor­der Force, which is re­spon­si­ble for immigration en­force­ment, is­sued a clar­i­fy­ing state­ment say­ing it would not be “stop­ping peo­ple at ran­dom” to “check peo­ple’s pa­pers.”

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