Op­er­a­tion turns back 33 boats

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Joe Kelly and Ge­off Cham­bers

OP­ER­A­TION Sov­er­eign Borders has pre­vented more than 3300 asy­lum-seek­ers com­ing to Aus­tralia by turn­ing back 33 boats and suc­cess­fully dis­rupt­ing nearly 80 peo­ple-smug­gling ven­tures in the past five years.

News Corp can re­veal that since Septem­ber 2013, at least 2525 peo­ple have been stopped from board­ing boats to Aus­tralia be­cause of co-op­er­a­tion with neigh­bour­ing coun­tries which has led to the dis­rup­tion of 78 peo­ple-smug­gling op­er­a­tions.

In ad­di­tion, 33 boats try­ing to ferry just over 800 asy­lum­seek­ers to Aus­tralia were stopped or turned back.

Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Peter Dutton told par­lia­ment that ad­vice from the Op­er­a­tion Sov­er­eign Borders agency heads was that the “threat of peo­ple-smug­gling has cer­tainly not gone away”.

His warn­ing came amid grow­ing pres­sure on the govern­ment to com­pro­mise on its pro­posed life­time ban – which has been stalled for two years in the Se­nate – pre­vent­ing all re­set­tled refugees from ever en­ter­ing Aus­tralia.

La­bor im­mi­gra­tion spokesman Shayne Neu­mann said La­bor would sup­port the life­time ban, sub­ject to key con­di­tions, if the govern­ment agreed to ac­cept New Zealand’s of­fer to re­set­tle chil­dren and their fam­ily mem­bers be­ing held on Nauru.

Scott Mor­ri­son – the for­mer im­mi­gra­tion min­is­ter cred­ited with stop­ping the boats – trashed La­bor’s of­fer, warn­ing it would cre­ate “per­verse in­cen­tives” and un­der­mine the US of­fer to take up to 1250 refugees.

“You don’t horse-trade on bor­der pro­tec­tion. You don’t do it,” the Prime Min­is­ter said.

“You don’t get chil­dren off Nauru by putting more chil­dren on Nauru through weaker bor­der pro­tec­tion poli­cies.”

The La­bor pro­posal, sent to Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter David Cole­man on Mon­day night, would nar­row the life­time ban so it ap­plied only to those refugees re­set­tled in New Zealand who then at­tempted to move per­ma­nently to Aus­tralia. It would al­low re­set­tled refuges to en­ter Aus­tralia on tourist or tem­po­rary busi­ness visas.

Mr Neu­mann said the com­pro­mise would still be suf­fi­cient to close the po­ten­tial for “back­door” en­try to Aus­tralia.

Speak­ing in par­lia­ment, Mr Dutton said the govern­ment was aware of peo­ple-smug­gling ven­tures be­ing planned in In­done­sia and other na­tions.

“We’re wor­ried about ac­tiv­ity and in­tel­li­gence com­ing out from cer­tain parts of the re­gion,” he said. “We’re see­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in the Mediter­ranean, where al­ready some­thing like 2000 peo­ple have drowned at sea this year.”

News Corp has con­firmed that in the past five years, 614 peo­ple-smug­gling ar­rests have been made over­seas as a re­sult of the 78 dis­rup­tions. These in­clude 489 ar­rests in Sri Lanka, 66 in In­done­sia, 48 in Malaysia and five each in Pak­istan and Thai­land.

Three in­di­vid­u­als were found guilty in Riau, In­done­sia, in Septem­ber and each was sen­tenced to five years’ jail.

The in­di­vid­u­als were found to be the or­gan­is­ers be­hind a foiled ven­ture in Novem­ber 2017 to smug­gle six Bangladeshi asy­lum-seek­ers to Aus­tralia as fake Ro­hingya refugees.

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