People Smugglers Are Forgoing Boats And Using The Skies To Send People To Australia

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

People smugglers may be switching tactics in an effort to facilitate the entry of illegal arrivals into Australia, according to a new government report.

A “new cohort of improperly documented travellers targeting Australia” by air has been exposed by the Department of Immigration as the number of passengers turned back at Australian airports rose 25 per cent, to more than 3000, during 2013-14.

47 “improperly documented passengers” from countries including Albania, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Romania, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Syria were identified in the last financial year, raising concerns that people-smugglers may be utilising air travel as a means of infiltrating Australia.

The Department of Immigration’s annual report said “attempts at improperly documented travel were being co-ordinated by an organised syndicate that had successfully acquired the identity details of genuine travellers to Australia”.

80 per cent of passengers who were turned back at airports in 2013-14 were not “bona fide travellers”, while the remaining 20 per cent failed character tests or did not possess appropriate travel documentation, according to the report.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said that on one flight five genuine passport holders from Australia, Malaysia and Hong Kong were suspected as facilitators and escorts for 27 other passengers who were refused entry.

The report also revealed that backpackers had altered their identities and acquired new working holiday visas abroad in an attempt to return to Australia after their original documents had expired.

In the last financial year 130 working holiday visas were refused as a result of identity fraud.

“The people identified by the department were discovered making changes to their true identities in their home countries in an attempt to subvert Australian law and to travel a second time without having completed the regional work requirement,” the report stated.

“In one case, we discovered an applicant who had been able to ­acquire five working holiday visas illegally this way until we detected the fraud.”

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