AN Indian journalist has been charged with people smuggling after allegedly helping a group of Indian nationals travel to Australia disguised as media for the Commonwealth Games.
The Australian Federal Police said nine Indian nationals flew into the capital on Wednesday with Temporary Activity Visas, claiming to be accredited media representatives.
Of the nine, eight of them were allegedly found to have fraudulent foreign media credentials.
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The ninth person, a 46-year-old man who police said had valid credentials, is accused of facilitating the fake media contingent’s travel down under.
He was subsequently arrested and charged with aggravated people smuggling and producing false documents and misleading information relating to non-citizens under the Migration Act 1958.
The maximum penalty for these offences is 20 years in jail.
The 46-year-old man from India has been remanded in custody and is due to appear in court on April 6 while the eight fake journalists have been placed into immigration detention and face immediate deportation.
The group first raised the eyebrows of an Australian Border Force Airline Liaison Officer in Bangkok as they travelled through Thailand.
ABF Regional Commander Queensland, Terry Price said that while the ABF is working hard to ensure smooth entry for legitimate Commonwealth Games visitors, attempts to exploit the event and Australia’s visa program will not be tolerated.
“Anyone wishing to enter Australia, including athletes, team officials, spectators and the media, must hold a valid visa and accreditation and must be deemed to be a legitimate visitor,” Commander Price said.
“As with all travellers, the ABF will process all Commonwealth Games visitors on arrival and anyone found not to be here for legitimate purposes can expect to have their visas cancelled and to be turned around.
“This may occur on arrival in Australia, or prior to boarding flights to Australia.
“We have a skilled network of ALOs at key overseas international airports who can identify travellers of concern and stop them travelling or, as in this case, provide real time information to alert colleagues onshore.
“The ABF remains highly alert to other similar attempts that may occur as we get closer to the start of the Commonwealth Games.”
AFP Manager Aviation, Commander Warwick Macfarlane said security measures throughout the lead-up and duration of the Games will be a collaborative effort between law enforcement and domestic partner agencies.
“AFP officers at Brisbane International Airport will continue to work with partner agencies to maintain a safe and secure environment for all travellers attending the Commonwealth Games”, Commander Warwick Macfarlane said.
The Commonwealth Games start on April 4.
Investigations are continuing.