News/AUSTRALIA: NEWS - ILLEGAL AIRPORT ENTRIES ON RISE.

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Subject: News/AUSTRALIA: NEWS - ILLEGAL AIRPORT ENTRIES ON RISE.
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Dec 13 1999 - 08:35:16 EST


12-10-99 AUSTRALIA: NEWS - ILLEGAL AIRPORT ENTRIES ON RISE.
By JANINE MacDONALD.
CANBERRA
Middle Eastern people smugglers are recruiting young, out-of-pocket
European backpackers to escort sex workers into Australia, immigration
authorities said yesterday.
In the past 12 months, 2106 people were detected trying to enter Australia
illegally through the nation's airports, a 56per cent increase in two
years.
Among them were 83 couriers or escorts paid to accompany inexperienced
travellers using fake papers or with phoney tour groups involved in
employment rackets.
Women sent to Australia to work in the sex industry often do not speak
English and are usually escorted by someone paid a small amount of money to
deliver them to Australian organisers, according to immigration officials.
The figures show that despite recent publicity about the surge in boat
arrivals, airports are still the main entry point for illegal immigrants.
And the air and sea arrivals are in turn dwarfed by the 20,000 people every
year who enter legally and overstay their visa.
Immigration officials estimate there are now 53,143 "overstayers" in
Australia and a quarter of them have been in the country for more than nine
years.
In four years, the number of people trying to enter Australia illegally by
boat or air has doubled - from 1556 in 1994-95 to 3032 in 1998-99.
The figures are contained in a snapshot of illegal immigration, called
Protecting the Border, launched by the Immigration Minister, Mr Philip
Ruddock, in Canberra yesterday.
Mr Ruddock said illegal immigration cost Australia hundreds of millions of
dollars in surveillance, maintaining detention centres, legal costs and
tracking down people who had overstayed their visas.
He said many boat arrivals came with a list of demands and recent arrivals
being held at Port Hedland and at Curtin RAAF Base in Western Australia had
asked for satellite television and Internet access.
According to immigration records, up to half of the people trying to sneak
through the nation's airports - mainly Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne - had
fake documents or no travel documents after destroying or disposing of them
en route. Passports had pages inserted, photographs substituted and fake
exit and entry stamps.
Sometimes people had used the passport of a family member who lives in
Australia legally.
In January this year, immigration officials detected a series of
counterfeit Italian passports being used by Afghans, Turks and Iranians at
airports in Brunei, Denpasar and Kuala Lumpur.
Immigration officers refused clearance to 813 people - described as
"malafide visa holders" - who were not expected to abide by visa
conditions, including having obvious plans to work but no clearance to do
so.
Mr Ruddock said it was an insidious practice, often involved sophisticated
and highly organised rackets, and was common in the sex industry.
In Asian sex smuggling networks, the escorts often owe a debt to organisers
and are coerced into the role.
The number of sex workers illegally in Australia has more than quadrupled
in two years, but immigration officials said there were signs some would
give evidence against organisers and that successful prosecutions would act
as a deterrent to others.
Most of the illegal immigrants stopped at Australia's major airports were
aged between 20 and 34 and the biggest numbers of them came from Iraq,
Malaysia, South Korea and the People's Republic of China.
More than half of them came through Sydney, but 267 people, or 13 per cent,
were stopped at Melbourne Airport.
Three-quarters of illegal immigrants were removed from Australia within 72
hours.
Where they come from

Iraq 326
Malaysia 277

South Korea 159

China 113
Indonesia 94
Thailand 93

New Zealand 92

Algeria 88

Philippines 77

Iran 64.
.
AGE (MELBOURNE) 10/12/1999 P3

Melanie Orhant

morhant@igc.org
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