Reports that Border Force agents were going to stop people in the street and demand their visas did not come from a "clumsily worded press release", Crikey can reveal. It was the plan.
the Australian Border Force said agents would be stopping people on the streets of Melbourne to demand evidence of their visas? And then after the ensuing outrage the ABF said oh no, they were never going to do that, and it was a "clumsily worded press release
"? Documents obtained by Crikey
reveal that excuse to be false: the talking points for the event revealed plans to "speak to individuals suspected" of being in Australia illegally.
The failed Operation Fortitude at the end of August sparked a mass protest in the Melbourne CBD after a media release stating Border Force officers would take part in an operation, along with Victoria Police, Metro Trains, Yarra Trams, the Sheriff’s Office and the Taxi Services Commission, to target “everything from anti-social behaviour to outstanding warrants”.
ABF’s regional commander for Victoria and Tasmania, Don Smith, was quoted as stating ABF officers would be “positioned at various locations around the CBD speaking with any individual we cross paths with”.
“You need to be aware of the conditions of your visa; if you commit visa fraud, you should know it is only a matter of time before you’re caught out,” Smith was quoted as saying. The operation was subsequently cancelled.
The government blamed the botched operation on a "badly worded" press release, approved at low levels within the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. The government has said there was never any intention of profiling people, but documents obtained by Crikey
reveal stronger language was planned in talking points about the powers ABF officers have to check people's visas.
The close to 300 pages of documents released by the Department of Immigration and Protection following a freedom of information request by Crikey
reveal as early as July, Victoria Police were planning Operation Fortitude and were inviting other agencies, including Border Force, to participate in the two-day operation for "public safety" in Melbourne's CBD scheduled for the end of August.
Once Border Force agreed to take part in Operation Fortitude, the agency decided to write its own press release because Victoria Police does not do joint press releases with other agencies.
An original draft of the release with the talking points suggested that, contrary to complaints from the department that media misreported the release, the officers were due to be "speaking to individuals who we suspect may be in Australia illegally without a current and valid visa".
How exactly would they determine who doesn't have a valid visa? They have ways of making you talk:
"Our officers employ a range of techniques to determine if we think someone is demonstrating traits which indicate there is a need to conduct a more in-depth assessment of their current visa status."