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Australia’s zero-tolerance approach to illegal immigration is working; the EU should take note

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Australia’s zero-tolerance approach to illegal immigration

Regardless of whether you feel Europe has a moral responsibility to open its borders to the tens of thousands of refugees and economic migrants who continue to mass on the northern coasts of Africa, or whether you believe allowing them to cross the Mediterranean poses an existential threat to the future of the continent, it is hard to argue against the assertion that the European Union and its partners have totally failed to get to grips with the ongoing migrant crisis. After years of dithering, this looks unlikely to change anytime soon. Despite a crackdown on people smuggling boats imposed by the EU, Italy and the Libyan coastguard earlier this year, migrants are continuing to die as they attempt the treacherous journey across the central Mediterranean route. Meanwhile, traffickers are increasingly turning their attentions further west, smuggling their human cargo up through Morocco and into Spain.

While the central Mediterranean crackdown has coincided with a fall in the number of would-be refugees attempting to cross from Libya to Italy, humanitarian organisations operating in the region have claimed the obstruction of their rescue boats has contributed to a spike in the number of migrant deaths at sea over the past few months. At the beginning of July, the International Organisation for Migration said more than 200 migrants had drowned while attempting to cross from Libya to Italy over a three-day period, and that more than 1,000 had died while making the journey since the beginning of the year. Confusion around Europe’s policy on migration was compounded at the end of June when a humanitarian boat carrying 59 migrants was turned away from Italy and Malta, only to later be allowed to dock in Spain, where students were reported to have been turfed out of their publically-owned accommodation to make way for the vessel’s passengers.

Generous as it was of Spain to take in the refugees and economic migrants who were stranded on the Aquarius rescue vessel, the episode perfectly exemplified Europe’s failure to convey a consistent message to those thinking of making the journey to its shores. Even after striking a deal with Turkey to stop migrants crossing the Med, and repeatedly warning that trafficking boats leaving the coast of Libya would be turned back before reaching Europe, the EU has allowed many thousands of migrants to enter its territory via Greece, Italy and Spain, sending out a message that it is possible for people to fulfil their dreams of a better life. As well as encouraging refugees and economic migrants to risk making the journey to Europe, sending out these mixed messages indicates to people smuggling gangs there is still plenty of money to be made, and that the passengers whose lives they risk in boats launched towards the continent still stand a pretty decent chance of making it across the water once they have been picked up rescue boats.

European policy makers need to wake up to the fact that people smugglers will continue to grow rich from sending migrants to their deaths in the Mediterranean all the while this madness continues. Allowing human traffickers to launch dangerous boats full of migrants from the northern coasts of Africa in the knowledge they will most likely be intercepted by humanitarian groups is continuing to fuel the smuggling trade, and is contributing to the loss of migrant lives. The only sensible way to bring an end to this insanity is the introduction of an Australian-style zero-tolerance policy. Earlier this week, Australian immigration minister Peter Dutton revealed that more than 600 people smugglers had been arrested since the country’s government introduced a crackdown on human trafficking in 2013, and that not one migrant life had been lost at sea since he came into post at the end of 2014.

While hugely unpopular on the left, Operation Sovereign Borders has proved instrumental in significantly cutting the number of migrants arriving in Australia by boat every year, which remained high under previous administrations. The policy 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 migrants are placed on dinghies or lifeboats to be returned to their country of origin. As well as discouraging people from attempting to make the journey in the first place, introducing such as policy in the Mediterranean could save lives, and severely curtail the activities of people smuggling gangs who prey on desperate migrants in search of a new life in Europe. At the same time, the EU could boost the processing of asylum applications submitted from overseas, and allocate more funding to initiatives designed to deal with the problems that are encouraging people to leave their homes and travel to Europe in the first place. Critics argue such policies are inhumane, but they must surely be better than the status quo, which continues to see hundreds of migrants dying at sea while people smuggling gangs grow rich off their misery.

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Californian regulators want to force legal cannabis stores to display QR codes containing licence info

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Californian regulators want to force legal cannabis stores to display QR codes

Regulators in the US state of California want licensed cannabis sellers to display QR codes that verify their legal status in a bid to help crack down on the illicit vaping products that are thought to have been behind an outbreak of lung injuries across America.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the California Bureau of Cannabis Control proposed new emergency legislation that would compel authorised cannabis traders to display QR codes containing information about their licensing status in their store windows, and to carry such codes while transporting or delivering the drug.

The proposed new rules are intended to help consumers confirm they are buying from reputable and fully licensed sources, and aid regulators and law enforcement agents as they attempt to guarantee safety levels in the legal cannabis market.

It is also hoped that the proposed new regulations would help educate cannabis buyers about the importance of purchasing supplies from licensed and regulated sources, and the dangers of buying bootleg products from traders that have not received approval from local authorities.

After scanning the codes using a smart device, cannabis buyers would be sent to the Bureau’s Online Licence Search, where they would be able to access information relating to the trader’s licence status, as well as details about a trader’s location so as buyers can be confident a retailer is not displaying counterfeit credentials.

Commenting on the proposed new rules, Bureau chief Lori Ajax said: “The proposed regulations will help consumers avoid purchasing cannabis goods from unlicensed businesses by providing a simple way to confirm licensure immediately before entering the premises or receiving a delivery.

“These requirements will also assist law enforcement in distinguishing between legal and illegal transportation of cannabis goods.”

In September last year, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a major outbreak of serious lung injury among users of vaping products had been linked to counterfeit THC products.

After conducting interviews about ecigarette use with 86 patients in Illinois and Wisconsin who had suffered lung injuries, the agency found that 87% had used THC-containing vaping products, the majority of which were prefilled cartridges that had been obtained from informal sources.

In an update issued earlier this month, the CDC revealed that as of 14 January, it had received reports of a total of 2,668 cases or deaths linked to the use of vaping products from all 50 states.

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Australian tax authorities seize and destroy illicit tobacco crop with estimated excise value of A$34.5 million

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illicit tobacco crop with estimated excise value of A$34.5 million

Tax authorities in Australia have confiscated and destroyed more than 26 tonnes of illicit tobacco that would have deprived the country’s government of an estimated A$34.5 million ($23. 55 million) in tax had it been sold on the black market.

The seizure was made after agents from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) carried out raids at illicit tobacco farms across at five sites in New South Wales (NSW).

Acting on intelligence and in cooperation with officers from NSW Police, ATO investigators discovered 50 acres of illicit tobacco crops, of which 30 acres contained mature plants almost ready for harvesting, and a further 20 acres that recently plated crops.

The ATO said no arrests had been made in connection with the illicit tobacco, but added that the operation resulted in the identification of two men who were in Australia illegally.

Police are continuing to investigate the discovery of the crops, as well as the alleged illegal removal of water from the Hastings River as part of the cultivation process.

Commenting on the seizure, ATO Assistant Commissioner Ian Read said: “The trade in illicit tobacco products in Australia has widespread negative consequences across the community. Tobacco growing operations are not run by small producers or farmers.

“They are run by organised criminal syndicates who deliberately engage in illegal activities.

“Involvement in illicit tobacco production is a serious offence. This type of activity takes vital money away from the community and places it directly into the hands of organised crime syndicate.”

In September of last year, 9News reported that the market for smuggled, illicit and counterfeit cigarettes exploded across the country in 2019, with Australian Border Force officers seizing more than 300 tonnes of smuggled contraband tobacco.

That figure was more than three times higher than the amount seized in 2017.

“We’re talking about large criminal entities interested in making money off the tobacco industry,” Western Australia Border Force Commander Rod O’Donnell commented.

“There’s money to be made if you can get the products in and sold into the black-market economy.”

Last month, Australian police arrested a man in connection with a plot to smuggle tobacco products with an estimated excise value of A$24 million into the country.

Officers from Australia’s Illicit Tobacco Taskforce (ITTF) detained the man at Melbourne Airport before he was later charged with five offences under the Customs Act 1901.

Prosecutors claimed the man was involved in a plot to smuggle almost 16 tonnes of loose-leaf tobacco and over 20 million cigarettes into Australia.

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Over 200 held in Interpol-backed operation targeting Balkan human trafficking networks

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Interpol-backed operation targeting Balkan human trafficking networks

An Interpol-backed operation targeting human trafficking and migrant smuggling rings in the Balkans has resulted in the arrest of 236 organised crime network members.

Operation Theseus, an eight-day initiative that took place last month, involved 3,000 immigration and law enforcement agents from countries including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Moldova, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.

As well as resulting in the detention of scores of suspected members of organised immigration crime gangs, the operation also saw specialist units dispatched to smuggling hotspots such as border points, rail and bus stations and entertainment districts rescue 89 victims of human trafficking.

The crackdown also resulted in the detection of 2,000 migrants.

Over the course of the campaign, participating investigators carried out 2.5 million passenger checks and 54,000 vehicle assessments and monitored a total of 1,500 flights.

Raids carried out during the operation resulted in the seizure of more than 1,500 counterfeit passports and national ID cards, 30 boats, 200 inflatable boats and buoys, 10 firearms, 60kgs of drugs and $200,000 in cash.

Commenting on the success of the operation, Interpol chief Jürgen Stock said in a statement: “Organised crime groups prey on the vulnerable and help them cross borders illegally for hefty sums.

“For some, the relationship ends on arrival but for others, it is only just the beginning of a bleak future of exploitation.

“Interpol’s role is to help police identify and break the networks behind this traffic and ensure their activities become more risky and less lucrative.”

Interpol said the operation was part of its wider efforts to disrupt human trafficking and migrant smuggling in the region, and was funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.

Separately, French and Dutch police have broken up a major organised immigration crime network that is thought to have smuggled some 10,000 Kurdish migrants into the UK.

The Europol-backed operation resulted in the detention of 23 suspected members of the gang, and the seizure of guns and cars.

Members of the network are said to have charged migrants as much as €7 000 ($7,732) each to be smuggled into the UK in refrigerated trucks.

In a statement, Europol said: “On the action day, Europol deployed two experts on-the-spot, one in France and one in the Netherlands, to cross-check operational information in real-time. This case was also developed as part of EMPACT JOT Dunqett operational action.”

 

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