Australian Border Force cancels plans to check visas on Melbourne Streets

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Visa Crackdown Cancelled
Members of the Federal Police wait for the prison lorry to collect the accused following the sentencing of a Muslim cleric convicted of terrorist charges at the Supreme Court in Melbourne February 3, 2009. The Victoria state Supreme Court sentenced the Muslim cleric to 15 years jail, along with six other Muslims to jail terms ranging from four to seven-and-a-half years, on Tuesday for plotting to bomb a football match in Melbourne in 2005, ending Australia's biggest terrorism trial, local media reported. REUTERS/Brandon Malone

The Federal Government revealed on Thursday that the Australian Border Force, along with a diverse team transport officers and enforcement agencies, will check visas on the streets of Melbourne on Friday and Saturday night with the aim to target crimes, from visa fraud to anti-social behaviour. But the operation has been cancelled by the Victoria Police after it triggered off chaos and outrage among the people.

"We understand there has been a high level of community interest and concern which has been taken into consideration when making this decision," the formal statement released by the Victoria police said.

It was earlier revealed that the ABF and other officials would be positioned at different parts of the city and would randomly check visas of whoever they come across, irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity.

Don Smith, the ABF regional commander, earlier on Friday said, “You need to be aware of the conditions of your visa; if you commit visa fraud you should know it’s only a matter of time before you’re caught out.”

However, Human Rights advocates expressed concern that the operation would give the police the advantage to stop people randomly and raised a possibility of “militarisation” of the immigration system. The exercise has been termed as “Operation Fortitude.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection clarified, soon after protests started surfacing, that people will not be stopped at random by the Border Forces, a deviation from its earlier statement.

"ABF officers will assist partner agencies by conducting background visa checks on individuals who are referred to us," the spokesperson said. "The ABF does not target of the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity."

Opposition leader Bill Shorten welcomed the move by the government to investigate crime and visa frauds but was sceptical that its decision to broadcast the plans even before the operations started might take a wrong turn.


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