26 September 2023

New line for Border Force powers

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Legislation has been introduced into Parliament giving Australian Border Force (ABF) officers strengthened powers.

The Force’s new capabilities would include searching for and seizing illegal drugs and other items that put at risk the health, safety or security of people in immigration detention.

Under current legislation, ABF officers are not legally able to search for or confiscate dangerous items, such as illicit drugs, child abuse material or extremist material, requiring them to rely on local police or the Australia Federal Police to attend the facility to search for and seize the items.

Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge said the current legislation was inadequate for managing the large number of detainees with a criminal history and who sought to continue their criminality while in detention.

“As we cancel the visas of more foreign criminals, more end up in immigration detention, and current powers are not adequate to keep those facilities safe,” Mr Tudge said.

“These are people who often have a history of child sex abuse, violence and drug use and many have links to criminal gangs such as bikies and organised crime.”

He said that currently a detainee could have a bag of cocaine, instructions on how to build a bomb, or child exploitation images in their room, and the ABF would be powerless to seize it.

“Clearly this is unacceptable,” the Minister said.

There are currently 1,400 people in immigration detention, down from a record 10,200 in July 2013 and with more than 60 per cent of them having a criminal history.

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