21 October 2008

Aus gov't sends strong message to people smugglers

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The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans said his government is sending a strong message to people smugglers that they will not tolerate illegal immigration to Australia.

Following the arrest and charging of two Indonesian nationals trying to smuggle people without a visa for Australia into the country, Senator Evans is hoping a strong message will be sent to other people smugglers in the region that they will be heavily penalised when caught.  Under the Migration Act 1958, people smugglers will be sentenced up to 20 years for attempting to bring more than five people illegally through Australian borders.

"The Australian Government is committed to strong border security arrangements and is determined to deal effectively and appropriately with people smuggling, which puts lives at risk and weakens our immigration system," Senator Evans said.

The two Indonesian smugglers were taken to Perth yesterday to have their case judged in court.  The boat was found when it docked alongside a floating production storage and offloading facility in Timor Sea earlier this month, carrying 14 Afghan passengers without Australian visas.

"The government has maintained extensive patrolling of our borders by Border Protection Command and has consistently made clear its commitment to maintain a system of mandatory detention and excision,’ Senator Evans said.  "The government has also renewed efforts to work closely with regional countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to prevent and deter people smuggling in the region, including to Australia."

Depsite this, the Opposition has called for the new Rudd government to review recent changes to the immigration laws after officials arrested 20 Sri Lankan and Indonesian nationals in East Timor who were preparing to smuggle people into Australia. 

Sharman Stone, the Opposition's spokesperson, said her party believe the changes to the immigration policy have encouraged more people smuggling. 

"I have got no doubt people smugglers have taken great comfort and they are having a good hard look at whether all of this is worth while making the quick short rush to Australia," she said.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their Australian visa application.

Article by Jessica Bird, Australian Visa Bureau.

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