Joint media release - The Hon Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
A coordinated national operation to tackle illegal workers, visa fraud and worker exploitation across Australia has led to the detention of illegal workers and the gathering of crucial intelligence.
About 120 officers from the Immigration and Border Protection portfolio working with inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO) office and State and Federal police participated in Operation Cloudburst, which involved 11 operations in all states – Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said this crackdown on illegal working and exploitation of workers sent a clear message to those doing the wrong thing.
“The vast majority of employers do the right thing, it is only a small minority who do not operate within the law,” Mr Dutton said.
“The Australian Government has made it very clear to that small minority that we will not put up with unscrupulous employers and labour hire companies blatantly flouting the law and allowing overseas workers to work illegally in Australia.”
Thirty eight illegal workers, including 32 unlawful non-citizens and six people working in breach of their visa conditions were detained.
Two of the people detained were operating labour hire arrangements – one without a visa and another whose student visa was cancelled last night.
Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Senator Michaelia Cash said, the operation had also led to the collection of important intelligence which would support future operational responses to exploitation of workers.
“This intelligence should lead to further investigation and possible prosecution and other court proceedings,” Senator Cash said.
“The results of this operation show we’re targeting and disrupting entities which seek to commit visa fraud and exploit foreign workers here in Australia.”
A total of 11 business entities and 12 residences linked to these business entities were visited. The results of the operations are as follows:
Western Australia: visited one residence and two businesses - operations at Osborne Park and Marangaroo; four suspected illegal workers located and intelligence collected on labour hire activities.
South Australia: visited three businesses - operations at Wingfield and Two Wells, intelligence gathered and immigration status of more than 80 people checked.
Queensland: visited one business - operation at Gatton: 22 suspected illegal workers located and intelligence collected on labour hire activities and farming operations.
New South Wales: visited seven residences and two businesses - operations at Leeton, Woodberry, Beresfield and Birmingham Gardens, seven suspected illegal workers located and intelligence collected on operations of a poultry company.
Victoria: visited four residences and one business - operations at Shepparton, Mooroopna and Lockwood, five suspected illegal workers located, intelligence collected on labour hire activities.
Tasmania: visited two businesses - operations at Cambridge and Lucaston, visa status checks conducted and intelligence collected on farming operations.
Mr Dutton said the suspected illegal workers are being detained at a range of immigration detention facilities and further enquiries are being made into the circumstances of their employment.
Any possible instances of foreign worker exploitation identified from these enquiries will be passed to the FWO who has responsibility for investigating instances of exploitation.
“Officers have made employers and visa holders aware of their obligations and the intelligence collected will now be followed up,” Mr Dutton said.
Senator Cash said the penalties for employers are well known and should not be taken lightly, as employers can face sanctions including civil penalties and criminal offences.
“Individuals who knowingly or recklessly use illegal workers face fines of up to $20 400 and/or two years imprisonment (per illegal worker), while companies face fines of up to $102 000 (per illegal worker),” Minister Cash said.