Aussies, Malaysians stop people smuggling operation
AUSTRALIAN and Malaysian authorities combined forces in a joint operation to smash a people smuggling syndicate before the latest boat hit the water.
The syndicate, led by a Sri Lankan citizen, had bought a boat in Malaysia to bring 34 Sri Lankans and Indians including 11 women and seven children to either Australia or New Zealand.
According to authorities the syndicate was in the process of purchasing three boat engines for the journey when Royal Malaysian Police launched operations around the city of Klang, capital of Selangor state, on January 4.
Australian authorities, through the Australian Federal Police, helped provide support mainly through surveillance and intelligence.
The 34 would-be boat people as well as three Sri Lanka men who were members of the syndicate were all arrested.
The operation disabled a network which has operated since the middle of last year with international links across Sri Lanka, India, Australia and New Zealand.
It brings the number of people smuggling ventures successfully stopped under Operation Sovereign Borders to 80 - with a total of 2573 people prevented from risking their lives at sea.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton thanked Malaysia for its continued efforts to combat people smuggling.
"This disruption shows that people smugglers continue to market Australia and New Zealand as a destination," he said.
Mr Dutton said it was the Coalition's tough border protection policies which had halted the people smugglers, a success that would be threatened if Labor won power.
"Don't believe Bill Shorten, the boats have not gone away. Just like Kevin Rudd, if elected Bill Shorten will change our border policies and the result will be more boats, more deaths at sea and more children in detention," he said.
Labor has committed to triple the number of AFP officers overseas dedicated to working with partner nations to deter and disrupt people smuggling operations.
Mr Dutton said this commitment was simply recognition that Labor's policies would put people smugglers back in business. He accused Labor of confirming at its national conference that it would help end offshore processing through support for legislation that "contracts out Australia's border protection to activist doctors".
Opposition immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said Labor's plan to boost AFP officer numbers overseas would deter and disrupt people smuggling at source.
He accused the government of lying about Labor's policies on border protection and "marketing the people smugglers' product for them".