There's been a significant increase in the number of interventions Counter-Terrorism Units (CTU) are making at Australia’s international airports in recent months.
Since July 199 passengers have been offloaded from their flights by CTU officers for national security reasons, concerns about their intended travel destination or other suspicious behaviour – in just these four months to the end of October this is almost two thirds the total offloads (336) in 2014-15.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said the number of interventions demonstrated the vital role the CT units were playing at a time when Australia’s terror alert level remained at high and threats were increasing.
"Maintaining strong security at our borders is critically important in stopping those with evil intent or impressionable young people who have fallen prey to terrorist propaganda from leaving Australia to join murderous terror groups like Islamic State,” Mr Dutton said.
"Equally it is our frontline in stopping those who would seek to enter Australia to do us harm."
The CTU initiative was part of the Government’s $630 million funding package for agencies involved in counter-terrorism activities.
Mr Dutton said since the CT units began operating at Australia’s international airports in August 2014 there had been a total of 535 passenger offloads, 194,660 real time assessments nationally and more than 13,000 patrols. (See notes)
"Many passengers subject to offload are able to continue their journey at a later time, but a significant number of people of national security concern have been detected during the CTU offload process.
"Much of the work these units do cannot be made public, but the instance of five young men prevented from travelling to the Middle East revealed in August this year is not an isolated case.
""Recently Australian Border Force officers formed a suspicion that a minor was potentially travelling to join conflicts in the Middle East. After questioning and an examination of his baggage he was prevented from travelling and referred to other agencies for investigation. Again this is not an isolated incident."
Mr Dutton said the Coalition Government had returned integrity to Australia's borders.
"Protecting the Australian community is our number one priority and we are doing everything possible to ensure we minimise the risks posed by terrorist groups and those who would seek to join them."
A Real Time Assessment – involves a CTU officer questioning a passenger about their travel intentions where a suspicion has been raised.
An Offload – is where a traveller is subject to CTU intervention activity and does not travel as originally intended.
A Patrol – is where CTU officers carry out both overt and covert activity in an airport precinct to detect, deter or disrupt possible terrorist related activity.