National Security

Get ahead of people-smugglers

April 9, 2024

Tuesday 09 April
The Australian

 The arrival on Friday of the third known group of asylum-seekers to reach  Western Australia's remote north coast since November shows that air and sea  surveillance needs to be increased to detect and deter people-smugglers, who  have a new business model. Rather than slow, rickety fishing boats such as  those that in the past were burned on arrival, the trade's criminal  operatives are using faster, modern vessels. They drop their passengers, who  are told to wait in the bush, which is infested with snakes and crocodiles,  for a few days before seeking help, as the boats get away.
 The new group, of about 10, is reportedly the first boatload of Chinese to  seek asylum in Australia since Falun Gong members sailed into Darwin Harbour  in 2012. The new group, Paige Taylor reports, has been flown to the South  Pacific processing centre of Nauru. The Albanese government, to its credit,  has maintained the centre despite opposition from the Greens and asylumseeker  advocates. Offshore processing, a central plank of Operation Sovereign  Borders, set up under Tony Abbott in 2013, remains in place. In February, 39  men from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India were sent to Nauru, as were 12 people  dropped off on the Kimberley coast in November.
 Anthony Albanese insists there has been "no change" in policy since  the government's election in May 2022 and "we will deal with any  unauthorised arrivals consistent with Operation Sovereign Borders, and that's  what we've done".
 Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson disputes the claim about  "no change". He said Labor abolished temporary protection visas in  February 2023, opening a path to permanency for thousands of people who  arrived before OSB was established.
 Senator Paterson also says the Border Force budget has been cut, a claim the  government rejects. According to Peter Dutton, the government has reduced  aerial surveillance by 20 per cent and on-water surveillance, conducted by  the Australian Border Force, by 12 per cent. Whatever the situation,  surveillance must be strengthened.
 Given the past determination of peoplesmugglers to misuse developments in  Australia as "sugar on the table" to lure customers, it would also  be hard to believe that the High Court's ruling that indefinite immigration  detention was illegal is not being sold as a factor. Now is the time to  contain the problem, not when arrival numbers stretch into the thousands, as  they did in the Rudd-Gillard years.

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