The Australian Border Force and Australian Federal Police have detained 34 Malaysians charged with working illegally near Woolgoolga on farms in New South Wales. Woolgoolga is a small town on the east coast near Coffs Harbour.
20 workers were “lawful non-citizens” who were in breach of conditions associated with tourist and other temporary visas. 14 were “unlawful non-citizens” who did not hold a valid visa. All 34 Malaysians nationals were taken to Villawood Immigration Detentions Centre were they are currently awaiting deportation.
Raids were conducted on the properties after information from the community was received by government authorities that a labour hire agency had been employing illegal workers in the agricultural sector. The raids were part of an ongoing operation into visa fraud and illegal employment. A total of 3 people were arrested and 95 illegal workers were detained.
Immigration Minsiter, Peter Dutton said in a statement, that the “operation sends a strong message to individuals and syndicates involved … if you are in Australia without a valid visa, if you work in breach of your visa conditions or if you are exploiting foreign workers, you will be caught”.
Australian employers who hire illegal workers face a $10,000 fine per worker if they are caught illegally hiring a non-citizen. There are strict penalties for the 34 Malaysians charged with working illegally near Woolgoolga, and for any other non-citizen found to be working illegally in Australia. These penalties regularly include deportation and bans on re-entry to Australia.