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The Australian Border Force has found 225 people working in breach of their visa conditions in 50 raids on homes and businesses across Australia in an operation targeting visa fraud, illegal work and exploitation of foreign nationals.
Those caught by the ABF during this nationwide operation are citizens of Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, Tunisia, Pakistan and Bangladesh who were working in different industries ranging from agriculture to retail and hospitality.
The operation codenamed Bonasus also targeted labour hire intermediaries involved in sourcing illegal labour who are now facing investigations for allegedly sending money earned from exploitation of workers overseas.
Employers organising illegal work in Australia face up to 10 years imprisonment and fines up to $210,000.
"Combatting visa fraud and investigating those who attempt to exploit and profit from Australia's visa regime is a priority for the ABF," ABF Commander Field and Removal Operations, Robyn Miller, said. "The facilitation of, and engagement in, illegal work can have lasting negative impact on Australian communities and individuals.”
"This includes significant underpayment and substandard living conditions for foreign workers, and reputational damage for rural and metropolitan industry sectors,” Commander Miller said.
The director of Anti-Slavery Australia, Jennifer Burn has expressed fears that workers caught in such situations face labour exploitation.
“We know that migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation, that they are subject to coercion across a wide-range of industries,” Professor Burn told AAP. “The best practice, and this is absolutely critical, is for anyone found to be working without appropriate permission or who has breached their visa conditions to be screened to make sure exploitation hasn’t occurred.”
The ABF says over 300 individuals were stopped from entering into Australia under this operation. Workers caught engaging in illegal work in Australia face deportation and a possible three-year ban from re-entering Australia.
While most of those nabbed under operation Bonasus have been deported, a few others are still in Australia and are being dealt with by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to resolve their immigration status.