Illegal workers to be deported
A FEW days ago they were picking fruit near Stanthorpe but last night 14 illegal Indonesian workers spent the night at a detention facility in Brisbane.
Acting on a public tip-off, Stanthorpe Police officer-in-charge Mark Ireland confirmed two Granite Belt officers took part in a joint operation with Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) about 4am yesterday.
A DIAC spokeswoman said the overseas workers, all Indonesian, had been working illegally in the horticulture industry.
“All 14 had overstayed their visas and were unlawfully in the community,” the spokeswoman said.
“Of the 14 located, 12 – five women and seven men – have been transferred to detention accommodation in Brisbane and will be removed from Australia as soon as possible.
“The remaining two men have been granted bridging visas to make their own arrangements to depart Australia.
“Investigations into the circumstances of their employment are ongoing, including possible links to labour hire contractors.”
Ready Workforce senior recruitment officer Sue Frances has spent the past 10 years uniting foreign workers with Stanthorpe employment opportunities and said she had heard rumours of “someone sniffing around recently”.
“Backpackers can’t apply for a working visa while in Australia; they have to have it before they enter the country,” she told the Daily News yesterday.
“Sometimes what happens is a contractor will approach a farmer and offer a deal where the workers might get $5 an hour with the contractor pocketing the rest, usually quite a lot.
“This conduct happens big time in the southern states and it’s creeping its way up here.”
The employment facilitator said Ready Workforce had a contract with Queensland’s Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations and performed vigorous visa checks to preserve Stanthorpe’s fruit-picking industry and protect people who lawfully gain employment on the Granite Belt.
“We’re at the hight of the season and currently have 300 workers looking for employment,” she said.
“In my 10 years of experience, 99 per cent of people do the right thing and we seldom find breaches of conditions.
“We’re pretty good at sniffing out and reporting people who do the wrong thing.
“We do all the visa checks but farmers need to know who they’re employing because doing the wrong thing leads to massive fines and they need to check contractors’ ethics.”
Employers convicted under Commonwealth legislation face fines of up to $13,200 and two years’ imprisonment while labour hire companies face fines of up to $66,000 per illegal worker.
People with information about illegal workers or visa overstayers are encouraged to call the Immigration Dob-In Line on 1800 009 623.