Australian Border Force (ABF) officers, operating under Taskforce Cadena and in collaboration with the Australian Federal Police (AFP), yesterday executed several warrants in regional New South Wales.
The warrants executed by Taskforce Cadena and the Australian Federal Police stemmed from information from the community and targeted a labour hire syndicate, which is alleged to be employing a number of illegal foreign workers operating in Woolgoolga, near Coffs Harbour.
During the operation, Taskforce Cadena investigators spoke to a number of workers and identified indicators of exploitation and Migration Act offences, which are now the subject of a criminal investigation. The individuals were working in the agriculture sector.
ABF officers identified and detained 14 unlawful non-citizens (UNCs) and 20 lawful non-citizens who were working in breach of their visa conditions – all individuals in question are believed to be Malaysian.
Adult detainees have been transported to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre to await removal to Malaysia.
There were two minors among the unlawful non-citizens. These minors have been transferred to an alternative place of detention.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said the ABF and its partners are committed to stopping the exploitation of the visa system and vulnerable individuals.
"The Turnbull Government has made it clear that attempts to exploit its temporary visa programmes will not be tolerated," Mr Dutton said.
"The Taskforce continues to gather intelligence across all industries where illegal work practices involving unlawful non-citizens and illegal foreign workers may be taking place."
"Yesterday's operation sends a strong message to individuals and syndicates involved; if you are in Australia without a valid visa, if you work in breach of your visa conditions or if you are exploiting foreign workers, you will be caught."
Since its inception, the Taskforce has completed 11 operations, resulting in the arrest of three people, the detention of 95 unlawful non-citizens and the execution of 31 warrants. Some of these matters are ongoing with ABF investigators preparing briefs of evidence for consideration by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
People involved in the organisation of visa fraud and illegal work can face penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment or fines up to $100,000.
People involved in the exploitation of foreign workers are liable for civil penalties of up to $10,800 per breach (60 penalty units) for a natural person or $54,000 for a corporation (300 penalty units).
Taskforce Cadena is a Joint Agency Taskforce comprising the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), its operational arm, the ABF, and the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Taskforce Cadena also involves collaboration with other agencies, such as the AFP, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), as well as local law enforcement agencies.
Anyone who is aware of an individual, business or employer who may be facilitating visa fraud or illegal work should report them to DIBP using the Immigration and Citizenship Online Report: http://www.border.gov.au/about/contact/immigration-and-citizenship-online-report
The exploitation of foreign workers by an individual, business or employer can be reported to the FWO through the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.