The Courier-Mail

SNAP PRATS HALT FAKE VISA BLITZ

- ANTHONY DOWSLEY

A SNAP social media-organised protest has locked down a city centre and forced authoritie­s to drop an operation against visa cheats.

The Australian Border Force (ABF) was to have joined Victorian police for the sweep of Melbourne transport networks but it was dumped after at least 200 protesters blocked the city centre over the visa cheats crackdown, carrying banners and yelling “F--- off Border Force” and blocking city streets before swarming a train station.

Others carried signs reading: “Refugees are welcome, Border Force are not.”

“We have had a gutful of scapegoati­ng immigrants in Australia and we have had a gutful of the scapegoati­ng of Muslims in particular,” one protester said. “We have shut the city down and we are right.”

The activists locked down the city after a press statement yesterday said officers would be in positions around the CBD this weekend “speaking with any individual­s we cross paths with”, about visas.

But ABF Commission­er Roman Quaedvlieg later told reporters in Canberra the press release was “clumsily worded” and did not properly portray the agreed role between Victoria Police and the force.

The ABF – part of the Department of Immigratio­n – tried to douse outrage by stipulatin­g it would not be stopping people at random in Melbourne.

Victoria Police did not explain its deci- sion. “Victoria Police has made a decision not to go ahead with this weekend’s Operation Fortitude,” a police statement said.

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

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the operation was concerning and backed its cancellati­on.

“The border is not at the banks of the Yarra River or Swanston St,” he said. “I thought it was a joke but it was serious. It would have been a disaster if it had been allowed to go ahead.”

Victoria Police Minister Wade Noonan criticised the Border Force over its hand

ling of the operation.

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