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Australia’s people smuggling crackdown results in arrest of more than 600 traffickers, immigration minister says

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Australia’s people smuggling crackdown

An Australian Government crackdown on human trafficking that began in 2013 has led to the arrest of more than 600 people smugglers, the country’s immigration minister has revealed.

Announcing details of Operation Sovereign Borders, Peter Dutton said the controversial policy had saved lives and had not resulted in a single death while he had been in the job.

The operation, which started in September 2013, has proved instrumental in significantly cutting the number of migrants arriving in Australia by boat, which remained high under previous Labor administrations.

Prior to the beginning of the crackdown, which was introduced as part of the Turnbull Government’s zero-tolerance approach to illegal immigration, as many as 50,000 would-be asylum seekers are thought to have travelled to Australia on more than 800 smugglers boats over the previous five years.

It is estimated that hundreds more, many of whom had attempted to make the journey from the Middle East, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, perished at sea while trying to make the treacherous journey to Australia by boat.

The AFP news agency quotes Dutton as saying: “People smugglers are an evil scourge who are looking for innocent men, women and children to take money from them.

“They don’t care whether they make Australian land or go to the bottom of the ocean.”

The Australian Government has prioritised the targeting of organised criminal groups behind the hugely lucrative people smuggling business that target the country’s shores, and has committed to turning back any boats that approach its coastline without a visa to their country of departure.

Operation Sovereign Borders involves army boats patrolling Australian waters in a bid to intercept migrant vessels.

Once identified, the boats are either towed back to their point of departure, or illegal migrants are placed on dinghies or lifeboats to be transported back to their country of origin.

While critics on the left have slammed the crackdown as inhumane, others have suggested Australia’s zero-tolerance response to illegal immigration could be used as a model to tackle the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe.

Supporters of the policy argue that while it may be tough, it prevents people smuggling gangs from profiting from the misery of illegal migrants, while at the same time discouraging would-be asylum seekers from travelling, resulting in fewer deaths at sea.

In a statement issued in July last year, Dutton said: “Settlement in Australia will never be an option for people who attempt to travel illegally by boat. There are no exceptions.

“Intelligence tells us that we must remain resolute because people smugglers are continuing to work hard to convince vulnerable people to get on unsafe people smuggling boats.”

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Man arrested in Sydney after his van rams into police vehicle while carrying methamphetamine worth over A$200 million

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rams into police vehicle while carrying methamphetamine

Australian police have charged a man with large commercial drug supply after a van in which he was travelling rammed into a parked police vehicle in Sydney’s north west on Monday while laden with a huge quantity of methamphetamine.

The drug-packed Toyota HiAce is reported to have slammed into the law enforcement truck at around 10:30 yesterday morning while it was parked outside a police station in the Eastwood suburb of the city.

Police said the vehicle that was hit suffered significant damage, but that nobody was hurt in the collision.

The van seen striking the police vehicle in CCTV footage captured outside the station was stopped by a police inspector around one hour after the accident.

It was found during a search to be transporting multiple bags that appeared to contain a crystalline substance.

Tests confirmed the substance was in fact 273kgs of methamphetamine with an estimated street value of over A$200 million ($138 million).

The 28-year-old driver of the van was arrested and taken into custody, while his vehicle was impounded in preparation for extensive forensic examination.

The man, who was charged with large commercial drug supply, negligent driving, and failing to provide information to police officers, was due to appear in court today.

Speaking with reporters, Detective Chief Inspector Glyn Baker said: “This would be one of the easiest drug busts New South Wales police have ever made.

“This man has certainly had a very, very bad day. Crashing into a police vehicle with that amount of drugs on board is somewhat unheard of – it’s an exceptional set of circumstances.”

He continued to say that it remained unclear why the driver had swerved into the police vehicle, adding that detectives are now working to trace the syndicate behind the large consignment of methamphetamine.

Nearly 10 tonnes of methamphetamine is consumed by Australians every year, making it the most popular drug in the country after cannabis, according to the seventh National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Programme report from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC).

Back in June, investigators from Australian Border Force (ABF) revealed they had seized the largest shipment of methamphetamine ever discovered in the country.

Customs officers in Melbourne found almost 1.6 tonnes of the drug with an estimated street value of A$1.197 billion ($840 million) concealed in stereo speakers that had been imported from Thailand.

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Transnational illicit trade preventing UN from achieving sustainable development goals, Tracit warns

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illicit trade preventing UN from achieving sustainable development goals

Progress towards achieving the United nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) is being thwarted by illicit trade in some of the world’s most important economic sectors, according to a new report from the Transnational Alliance to Combat Illicit Trade (Tracit).

The study reveals that global illicit trade is proving to be a significant deterrence and is holding back progress on all 17 of the UN’s SDGs.

According to the report, illicit trade in all its forms is undermining global efforts to reduce poverty, promote the creation of quality employment and stimulate economic growth, and is also robbing governments in countries around the world of tax revenue that could be invested in public services.

Illicit trade is also undermining global peace by generating funds for organised criminal networks and terrorist organisations, Tracit said.

In the agri-food industry, food fraud to and the large scale-smuggling of agriculture products is undermining farming and global food trade systems, destabilising rural economies and jeopardising production of sustainable food supplies, the report notes.

Elsewhere, illegal agrochemicals such as obsolete, unauthorised, untested, unregulated and counterfeit pesticides are damaging conventional agriculture and preventing farmers from maximising crop quantity and quality by reducing pests and diseases.

The illicit trade in counterfeit and smuggled alcohol is holding back progress in promoting good health and wellbeing, and more specifically an SDG target that aims to substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses resulting from the consumption of hazardous chemicals.

Meanwhile, counterfeiting and copyright piracy is eroding the world’s intellectual property rights system that incentivises innovation, and is stifling economic growth and job creation while inhibiting creative industries from realising their full potential.

The report also notes that the worldwide trade in illicit pharmaceuticals is extending beyond the problem of “fakes” to include substandard, falsified, unregistered and unlicensed drugs as well as their theft, fraud, illicit diversion, smuggling and trafficking.

“From smuggling, counterfeiting and tax evasion, to the illegal sale or possession of goods, services, humans and wildlife, illicit trade is compromising the attainment of the SDGs in significant ways, crowding out legitimate economic activity, depriving governments of revenues for investment in vital public services, dislocating millions of legitimate jobs and causing irreversible damage to ecosystems and human lives,” an introduction to the report reads.

“Despite the recognition of international trade as an important means to achieve the SDGs, insufficient attention has been given to the substantial impact that illicit trade has on holding back progress.”

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Female people smuggler jailed for three years for trafficking Indian migrants into US

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female people smuggler from Texas jailed

A bail bondswoman with an Indian background has been jailed by a court in the US for her role in multi-million-dollar human trafficking conspiracy that involved illegal migrants being smuggled into America mostly from her country of origin.

Hema Patel was given a three-year sentence and ordered to hand over a large quantity of cash and assets after pleading guilty to alien smuggling for financial gain by fraudulently bonding illegal immigrants from immigration custody and causing their release into the US.

A New York court told Patel she must forfeit her Texas home, two hotels, $7.2 million in bail bonds, $400,000 in cash and 11 gold bars, among other assets.

The network for which Patel worked would charge migrants as much as $60,000 per person to be smuggled into the US and would pay middlemen to ship their human cargo either via northern routes through Canada, or up from the south via Mexico.

Once the migrants arrived in the US and had been taken into custody by immigration control officers, they would call Patel, who would proceed to arrange fraudulent bail documents listing addresses at which they would be staying while their cases were being dealt with.

After these documents had been filed with immigration courts, the migrants would be released into the community, with some being put up temporarily in Patel’s Texas hotels.

A police raid on Patel’s home in Texas in November 2016 resulted in the seizure of thousands of fraudulent migrant bonding records.

In November the following year, her co-defendant Chandresh Kumar Patel, who is no relation, admitted his role in the scam, which is thought to have run from April 2015 until October 2016, when it was broken up by police.

He was also jailed for three years after investigators discovered $80,000 at his New York home.

Speaking after sentencing, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Angel Melendez commented: “In a classic example of how criminal networks exploit loopholes in our nation’s immigration system to make a profit while threatening the national security of the United States, Hema Patel and her human smuggling co-conspirators manufactured fraudulent bond documents to secure the release of undocumented aliens that were smuggled through the southwest border by an international criminal network.

“HSI remains steadfast in its commitment to secure our nation’s legitimate travel, trade and finance by going after transnational criminal networks, their facilitators and their ill-gained assets.”

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