ACT News


Alleged smugglers' status to be reviewed

The Immigration Department will review the refugee claims of alleged people smugglers who now live in Australia and are reportedly still arranging illegal boat travel to this country.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said yesterday the government had no tolerance for people who posed as refugees or asylum seekers and lied to authorities to gain residency.

He said the Australian Federal Police would look closely at evidence uncovered by ABC Television's Four Corners program about alleged people smugglers living in Sydney and Canberra.

''Clearly the AFP, my department and ASIO examine a whole range of information about individuals, and they will examine information that has come to hand as a result of the program,'' Mr Bowen told ABC Television yesterday.

''I have zero tolerance to any people providing wrong information to any government agency.''

The department review comes as the employer of an alleged kingpin people smuggler who was found to be a trolley collector at Gungahlin Marketplace said it had terminated his contract yesterday.


The ACT government is also investigating claims it was housing the alleged smuggler and his family.

Four Corners alleged the man, who lives in Canberra and is known to asylum-seekers as ''Captain Emad'', has run a large-scale smuggling operation since coming to Australia as a refugee in 2010.

The broadcaster claimed Emad, who was a successful perfume salesman from Malaysia, also sent his family by boat to Australia a year earlier, using false passports and identities.

Housing ACT had accommodated all of the family: his wife lived in Kaleen, his daughters were in Lyneham and Dunlop, and his son lived in Hawker.

ACT Housing and Community Services chief Maureen Sheehan said yesterday privacy laws prevented her from discussing the allegations.

However, she said Housing ACT investigated thoroughly any allegation of fraud involved in a public tenancy application.

''I would investigate the original evidence. So if, for example, a support agency had said [a] person is a refugee, I would then ask that agency what the basis of that assessment was and re-examine the source documents …

''I'm entitled to terminate housing assistance if it's been attained on the basis of incorrect or fraudulent information and, if it's fraud, I can refer it to the police for investigation. And, on many occasions, I have done all of those things.''

However, Ms Sheehan said that she had little choice but to rely on the veracity of the initial screening and checks undertaken by other government agencies, such as the Immigration Department and Centrelink.

The Four Corners revelations come as the navy yesterday intercepted the fifth vessel carrying suspected asylum seekers in five days, bringing the number of arrivals this year to 3749.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the Four Corners program was an extraordinary indictment of the government's incompetence in protecting Australia's borders.

''The obvious question that occurs is that if the TV stations can find them, why can't the government stop them?'' he told reporters in Canberra.

with AAP