This weekend Australian Border Force (ABF) officers will be taking part in an unprecedented operation on the streets of Melbourne that will involve checking people’s visa details.
Operation Fortitude will target the city’s Metro trains, Yarra trams, taxis and the Sheriff’s offices, particularly focusing on people travelling to, from and around the CBD.
Authorities will be looking for anything from anti-social behaviour to outstanding warrants.
“ABF officers will be positioned at various locations around the CBD speaking with any individual we cross paths with,” ABF Regional Commander Victoria and Tasmania, Don Smith says.
“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.”
It is the first time the federal immigration and law enforcement organisation have joined forces with Victoria Police to target crime in the city.
The operation will work on an ongoing basis to target crime in and around the Melbourne CBD.
As of 2013, one in every 20 backpackers received a 457 “working holiday” visa which allows them to stay in Australia for four years.
But last year Melbourne officials found one third of beggars in the CBD were actually backpackers who had run out of money.
To combat the rising number of beggars on the streets, Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle began a campaign against begging and implemented anti-begging strategies. Read more about that here.
Here’s what people are saying about the ABF checking people’s visas.
I don't like hyperbole. I know there's a diff b/w conservatism & creeping fascism. But this actually makes me scarred http://t.co/hKg9zGGu6Q
— Steven Noble (@steven_noble) August 28, 2015
I want to walk around the city all weekend and speak loudly in my American accent to see if Border Force bales up a white dude.
— Rob Ruminski (@ruminski) August 28, 2015
how will the border force know who to ask about their visa status? how do you prove you're a citizen if stopped on the spot?
— michael safi (@safimichael) August 28, 2015
So Border Force is in the Melbourne CBD "targeting everything from anti-social behaviour to outstanding warrants." Christ.
— Greg Jericho (@GrogsGamut) August 28, 2015
Ummmm what the hell? Australian Border Force to join Victorian Police in weekend CBD operation targeting anti-social behaviour #auspol
— Bevan Shields (@BevanShields) August 27, 2015
Focus on national security and immigration was bolstered after the Martin Place siege last year, where hostage-taker Man Haron Monis – an Iranian-born Australian citizen – and two hostages died.
Following the siege, prime minister Tony Abbott said Australians were being taken “for mugs” by some immigrants.
“There’s been the benefit of the doubt at our borders, the benefit of the doubt for residency, the benefit of the doubt for citizenship and the benefit of the doubt at Centrelink,” he said.
“It’s clear to me, that for too long, we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt.
“We are a free and fair nation. But that doesn’t mean we should let bad people play us for mugs, and all too often they have: Well, that’s going to stop.”
The latest development in Melbourne also follows news that Australia’s border protection unit rebranding cost the government about $10 million — the 10th branding overhaul it’s had since World War II. Read more about that here.
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