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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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European police agencies seize 550 tonnes of counterfeit pesticides in latest edition of Operation Silver Axe

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550 tonnes of counterfeit pesticides

The latest instalment of a Europol-coordinated operation targeting agricultural fraudsters has resulted in the seizure of 550 tonnes of counterfeit pesticides across Europe and the arrest of three individuals.

Now in its fourth year, Operation Silver Axe, which is supported by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and involves law enforcement agencies in nearly 30 countries, saw investigators in search of fake pesticides carry out inspections at major seaports, airports and land borders.

Law enforcement officials in 29 participating nations also searched production and repackaging facilities looking for pesticide products that had not been tested to make sure they pose no risk to the environment or the health and safety of users, consumers and members of the public.

First launched in 2012, Operation Silver Axe is also intended to target the sale of counterfeit pesticides that infringe intellectual property rights such as trademarks, patents and copyright.

The bogus pesticides seized during this year’s operation would have been enough to spray 49,000km2 (30,447m2), an area the equivalent to the whole of Estonia.

Ahead of this year’s operation, OLAF provided participating nations with intelligence on 120 suspicious shipments of pesticides transported into member states.

Last year’s operation, which took place across 27 countries, saw investigators confiscate some 360 tonnes of illegal or counterfeit pesticides.

Since its inception seven years ago, Operation Silver Axe has resulted in 1,222 tonnes of illegal and fake counterfeit products being removed from circulation.

In a statement, Hans Mattaar, Technical Director of the European Crop Care Association (ECCA) said: “Every new Silver Axe operation shows how improving cooperation between law enforcement agencies leads to more efficiency in the fight against illegal pesticides.

“ECCA is pleased to see the result of Silver Axe IV, but at the same time concerned about the ongoing illegal business.

“We look forward to continuing our contribution to Europol in broadening the scope of Silver Axe.

“To increasing the pressure is the only way to discourage to discourage the criminal organisations behind this illegal trade.”

According to the European Crop Protection Association, the illicit global trade in counterfeit pesticides is growing at a swift rate, with increasing amounts of bogus agricultural products being sold to farmers across the globe by organised criminal networks.

The agency warns that fake pesticide products could be made from chemicals that are banned or restricted, and may lead to the total loss of treated crops, potentially compromising the livelihood of farmers.

It is estimated that counterfeit pesticides make up some 15% of the global $60 billion crop protection market.

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Criminal money mule recruiters increasingly targeting middle-aged Britons, UK fraud prevention agency finds

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money mule recruiters increasingly targeting middle-aged Britons

A new report from UK fraud prevention service Cifas has revealed that criminals ae increasingly targeting middle-aged Britons in a bid to persuade them to act as money mules.

In the latest edition of its annual Fraudscape study, Cifas said that it received more than 40,000 cases which “bore the hallmarks” of money mule activity in 2018, which was up 26% compared to the previous year.

While a rise in money mule activity was recorded across all age groups, the largest increase (35%) was seen among those aged between 41 and 60 last year.

Money mules agree to allow their bank accounts to be used by criminals to launder the proceeds of their illegal activities, and are typically offered a cut of the money they move as a commission, or high-value items such as expensive trainers in return.

Recruiters typically target potential mules online via social media platforms, historically seeking out young male victims who might be in financial difficulty, such as the unemployed or students.

While Cifas’ latest report shows that young people under the age of 30 are still by far the primary target of money mule recruiters, last year saw a marked rise in the number of older people becoming involved in the crime, albeit from a very low starting point.

More widely, the report reveals that Cifas members recorded almost 324,000 cases of fraud last year, which was up 6% on 2017.

Commenting on the contents of the study, Cifas CEO Mike Haley said: “Fraud in the UK continues to rise and fraudsters are constantly finding new methods of committing fraud.

“From identity theft through to using the young and naïve as money mules to launder money, the economic and social harm to the nation is growing.

“The only way to fight the threat is to combine communication and collaboration, working together to present a united front against the perpetrators.”

Acting as a money mule might seem like an easy way to make some quick cash, but those caught allowing their accounts to be used for the laundering of the proceeds of criminal activities can face stiff penalties, and will rarely be able to plead ignorance if they are caught.

Back in April of this year, police in Ireland warned students thinking of acting as money mules that they could face as many as 14 years behind bars if they allowed their bank accounts to be used by criminals to launder money.

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Wastewater analysis shows Australians taking more methamphetamine, heroin and MDMA

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wastewater analysis shows Australians taking more methamphetamine

Consumption of heroin and MDMA has risen to the highest levels ever recorded in Australia by an annual study that measures the presence of illicit substances in the country’s wastewater.

The seventh National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Programme report, released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), also showed that Australians now use twice as much methamphetamine as any other illicit drug.

According to the study, Australia ranks second for methamphetamine and MDMA use among 25 countries that produce comparable stimulant data, but has relatively low comparative cocaine consumption.

The study revealed that while the consumption of nicotine and alcohol fell across the country in the 12 months to December last year, use of methamphetamine continued to outstrip the consumption of all other illicit drug types and pharmaceuticals.

The report estimates that Australia’s annual consumption of methamphetamine has reached nearly 10 tonnes, which compares to just over four tonnes of cocaine, and 750kgs of heroin.

Australian drug users are thought to favour synthetic narcotics on account of the cost and expense of shipping substances such as heroin and cocaine into the country from the regions in which they are grown.

The study also found that while use of synthetic opioid fentanyl plateaued in the final six months of 2018, oxycodone consumption rose over the same period.

On a regional basis, South and Western Australia were found to have the highest average use of methamphetamine, while Victoria had the highest rate of heroin consumption, and New South Wales the top level of cocaine use.

Unveiling the latest edition of the report, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Chief Executive Officer Michael Phelan said: “The Australian community continues to consume illicit drugs at concerning levels and the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program is providing an important, unified and consistent guiding tool for developing holistic drug responses.

“We are only now starting to realise the full benefits of the ongoing programme.”

The study found that average heroin consumption decreased in both capital city and regional areas, while average cannabis consumption increased in both city and regional sites.

The ACIC noted that the report covered 54% of the Australian population, which equates to about 12.6 million people, and that 50 wastewater treatment plants across Australia participated in the December 2018 collection, monitoring the consumption of 13 substances.

Earlier this month, the Australian Border Force (ABF) announced that it had seized 1.6 tonnes of methamphetamine, which was said to have been the largest shipment of the drug ever discovered in the country.

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