Customs targets employers of illegal workers


The Australian Border Force (ABF) has identified a number of labour hire intermediaries sourcing illegal labour and sending money derived from this exploitation overseas.

Following an Australia-wide operation codenamed Bonasus, more than 225 people working in breach of their visa conditions were also located during the operation. Video footage of the operation can be viewed here.

ABF officers inspected 48 properties, including businesses and residential premises, as part of the operation targeting organised visa fraud, illegal work and the exploitation of foreign nationals.

The illegal workers were from Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Vietnam Tunisia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. They were located working in industries ranging from agriculture to retail and hospitality.

In addition, more than 300 individuals were refused entry into Australia as part of the operation.

ABF Commander Field and Removal Operations Robyn Miller said the operation should act as a warning to both employers of illegal workers and non-citizens who are, or are intending to, work illegally in Australia.

“The facilitation of, and engagement in, illegal work can have lasting negative impact on Australian communities and individuals,” Commander Miller said.

“This includes significant underpayment and substandard living conditions for foreign workers, and reputational damage for rural and metropolitan industry sectors.

“Small and medium businesses are also disadvantaged due to the unfair competitive advantage gained by those who do not adhere to the law.”

Investigations into these labour hire intermediaries are continuing. Penalties for businesses organising illegal work range up to ten years imprisonment and/or fines of up to $210,000.

Individuals caught working illegally may be detained and removed. Individuals also face being banned from re-entering Australia for three years and may be liable for the costs of their removal.

A majority of the unlawful non-citizens and foreign nationals caught working illegally have been removed to their country of origin. A small number of the group are assisting the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to resolve their immigration status.

Anyone who is aware of an individual, business or employer who may be facilitating visa fraud or illegal work is urged to contact Border Watch on 1800 009 623 or visit Information can be provided anonymously.

State/Territory Number of warrants Illegal workers located Locations
Victoria/Tasmania 14 More than 50 Warrants occurred in metropolitan Melbourne, Mildura, Shepparton, and Sunbury.
NSW/ACT 16 More than 110 Warrants occurred in metropolitan Sydney, Coffs Harbour, Mittagong and Griffith.
Queensland 4 More than 25 Warrants occurred in metropolitan Brisbane, Bundaberg and Mareeba.
Western Australia 12 Almost 40 Warrants occurred in metropolitan Perth.
South Australia/Northern Territory 2 Fewer than 5 Warrants occurred in Golden Heights and Whyalla Stuart.   
Total 48 More than 225  

The Department does not report on cohorts fewer than five for privacy reasons.


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