Boats secrecy slammed
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison says his new weekly briefings on border security will deprive people smugglers of 'shipping news', but his critics say he's hiding the problem.PT1M22S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2u9ws 620 349 September 23, 2013
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A people smuggler jailed in Indonesia has ridiculed Scott Morrison's vow of silence about new asylum boat arrivals, saying the smuggling networks do not rely on Australian government press releases for their information.
The smuggler, Dawood Amiri, told Fairfax Media that the policy "won't change anything" from the syndicates' point of view.
"When the boat is being rescued and the passengers on board see the Australian authorities, they call the Hawaladar from their satellite phone. Then the smuggler gets the money," Amiri said.
A Hawaladar is a trusted third party, often based in Afghanistan or Pakistan, who holds the money in trust for passengers on boats. The money is only released to the people smuggler when the boat arrives safely.
"This new policy can work only if the Abbott minister buys all the satellite phones in Indonesia (like they want to buy the scrap boats)," Amiri said.
"That's a stupid policy. The politicians are wasting their time."
Asylum seekers also immediately contact their families by phone when they arrive safely in Christmas Island, or they use the island's detention centre computers to tell their stories, often over Facebook.
Amiri, who is serving a six-year prison sentence for his role in people smuggling syndicates, said the information hitherto put out by the Australian government is "just for the rest of the world, not for the network".
Amiri also revealed that even an ordinary mobile phone worked from about 40 nautical miles from Christmas Island if it had global roaming switched on.
"The boys could call the whole world by their personal handphones because its signal was full and strong there," Amiri said.
Mr Morrison introduced his first weekly briefing to journalists on Monday saying: "This briefing is not about providing shipping news to people smugglers."
In a statement on the weekend he said that, "taking control of how that information is released denies people smugglers the opportunity to exploit such information".
However, he has not detailed out exactly how that information might be misused, and has been accused by the opposition and other groups of simply wanting to clamp down on embarrassing information about boat arrivals.
Amiri was jailed in February for his role as an organiser in people smuggling ventures, including one in June last year which claimed 96 lives and prompted the then Gillard government into a radical rethink which ultimately prompted the reopening of Nauru as a detention facility.
He has admitted his guilt.