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Source: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

Officers from the Australian Border Force (ABF) have located 10 foreign nationals working illegally on a large strawberry farm at Bambun, north of Perth.

Seven were from Vietnam and three from Malaysia. One female and one male from Malaysia were in Australia unlawfully, whilst the other eight were found to be working in breach of their visas.

The foreign nationals were identified after two Migration Act 1958 warrants were executed on the property yesterday (26 September 2019) as part of an ongoing operation established to target unscrupulous labour hire intermediaries and the companies that use them to exploit foreign workers.

Some of the farm workers were found to be living in cramped and squalid conditions in a house and donga style accommodation on the property.

ABF Commander of Investigations, Graeme Grosse, said the ABF is committed to disrupting and dismantling unscrupulous labour hire intermediaries who exploit foreign workers.

“Foreign workers are often extremely vulnerable and we often find evidence of them being underpaid, deprived of entitlements, and being treated poorly,” Commander Grosse said.

“Unscrupulous individuals facilitating illegal worker exploitation are making significant profits at their expense, and it also disadvantages local businesses who do the right thing by paying and treating their workers properly.”

The ABF continues to work collaboratively with whole of government partners such as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) led Phoenix Taskforce.

This collaboration is working to harden the border environment to serious organised crime networks seeking to exploit vulnerable foreign workers and Australia’s migration and tax systems for financial gain.

The 37 member Phoenix Taskforce takes a whole-of-government approach, coordinating action with other Phoenix Taskforce agencies to stamp out illegal phoenix activity.

The annual direct impact of illegal phoenix activity to the economy is estimated to be between $2.85 billion and $5.13 billion, costing:

◦Business as unpaid trade creditors between $1.162 billion – $3.171 billion ◦Employees through unpaid entitlements between $31 million – $298 million ◦Government from unpaid taxes and compliance costs $1.66 billion.

Since the Phoenix Taskforce was formed in November 2014 the ATO has raised liabilities of more than $1.2 billion and returned around $530 million in cash to the community.

◦In 2018 – 19 the ATO completed around 750 audits and reviews into phoenix operators

◦In 2018 -19 the Phoenix Taskforce successfully prosecuted nine criminal matters.

Visit ato.gov.au/phoenixtaskforce to find out more. If you know or suspect illegal phoenix activity, report it by:

◦Completing a Tip-Off form on the ATO website or in the ‘contact us’ section of the ATO app – available from the app store

◦Calling the Black Economy Hotline on 1800 060 062

◦Emailing PhoenixReferrals@ato.gov.au.

In cases of organised visa fraud, the ABF can pursue offences carrying penalties up to 10 years imprisonment and/or fines of up to $210,000 for individuals and $1,050,000 for corporations.

The Department of Home Affairs encourages all employers to conduct regular checks using the Visa Entitlement Verification Online system (VEVO) to ensure that their workers are permitted to work, and to not rely on contractors or labour hire intermediaries.

Information about VEVO can be found here – https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/already-have-a-visa/check-visa-details-and-conditions/check-conditions-online.

Anyone who is aware of an individual, business or employer who might be facilitating visa fraud or illegal work is urged to contact Border Watch at www.abf.gov.au/borderwatch.

Media contact: Australian Border Force (02) 6264 2211

Australian Taxation Office (02) 621 61901

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