[Stop-traffic] News/Malaysia: Middle East people smuggling ring cracked-Australia

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Subject: [Stop-traffic] News/Malaysia: Middle East people smuggling ring cracked-Australia
From: J Ballinger (jeffreyd@mindspring.com)
Date: Wed Jan 24 2001 - 09:09:10 EST


Middle East people smuggling ring cracked-Australia

CANBERRA, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Two key players in a global people smuggling
ring have been arrested in Malaysia, disrupting a vital link in the pipeline
of illegal Middle Eastern immigrants to Australia, the Australian government
said on Wednesday.

Malaysian police on Tuesday charged two Iraqis suspected of running a huge
operation to provide false travel documents to immigrants pouring into
Australia, a spokesman for Justice and Customs Minister Amanda Vanstone said.

"They're regarded as quite senior people on the criminal food chain," the
spokesman said.

Australian federal police worked with Malaysian investigators to break the
international ring, part of a thriving pipeline which shuttles illegal
immigrants from the Middle East through Malaysia and Indonesia to Australia.

Vanstone said the arrests should be enough to slow the stream of illegal
immigrants to Australian shores.

"These arrests are expected to significantly reduce the flow of unlawful
arrivals to Australia as the syndicate is believed to be responsible for
arranging transit of passengers from Malaysia to Indonesia before moving on
towards Australia," she said in a statement.

Australia has been alarmed by a surge in recent months of arrivals by Middle
Eastern asylum seekers, many of whom arrive off Australia's isolated
northwest coast on overloaded and unstable boats from Indonesia.

Three boats carrying nearly 300 people were intercepted by Australian Customs
in the first two weeks of 2001.

Fifty boats carrying 3,080 people were intercepted in 2000, adding to the
thousands already held in Australian detention centres awaiting refugee
hearings.

Vanstone said the two Iraqis will appear in a Kuala Lumpur court on January
30 to face charges of possessing forged travel documents. The charges carry a
maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment and a fine of up to A$25,000
(US$13,800).

(A$1-US$0.55)

Jeff Ballinger
E- 502
75 Cambridge Pkwy.
Cambridge, MA 02142
617 496-6423


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