ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION –EASY MONEY
Exclusive Investigation by Charles Miranda
"You want to go live in Australia, we have a big boat and it's ready to go now," says one Iraqi-born man to some of the illegal immigrants hiding out on the busy Jakarta street.
There is no need to wait or prepare, to plot or plan for the hundreds of desperate illegal immigrants in Indonesia of Afghan, Iranian, Sri Lankan and Iraqi origin.
"It really is that easy," says former people smuggler "Shadi". He clicks his fingers.
"I could go now, today, and get 50 passengers for Australia just like that for you and you can get half a million dollars US, not Aussie, just like that."
Shadi should know. He tried to make it to Christmas Island but when things didn't work out he became a people smuggler himself and for three years helped send more people to Australia than he can remember. The number is in the thousands.
But in the third phase of his three years walking about Jalan Jaksa he became one of the Australian Federal Police's most significant covert agents and later one of the first to be given a protected new life in Australia - a thanks from a grateful nation.
He not only exposed the men behind the smuggling but single-handedly stopped dozens of boats from coming to Australia, testified against some of the biggest people-smugglers in South East Asia and, more importantly, laid out a detailed map of the routes for thousands plotting to come to Australia.
Today he is again helping authorities hunt the smugglers and track the boats preparing to make the voyage.
Shadi yesterday agreed to speak with us to reveal the true extent of the problem and how and why it is about to get a lot worse.
His story is common. He went to Jordan in 1997 with a plan to be smuggled to Sweden.
After a three-year wait for Swedish passage Shadi decided instead to go to Australia and immediately flew to Jakarta to prepare. He made one failed voyage with 300 others and just remembered the huge waves and the dread he would die at sea. It put him off but he felt sorry for his fellow passengers, abandoned by the head smuggler after two failed attempts to cross the straits, and decided to help them leave. He also spoke English - a bonus in Jakarta - so he became an accidental people smuggler.
He was the moneyman and recruiter. He was the quartermaster buying the supplies for the voyages, including life vests and essentials such as bags of sugar, tea, bread and water. He even had a collection of rubber stamps to put fake entry and exit visa marks in passports.
The would-be Aussie asylum seekers generally flew into Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia first from Iraq or Jordan. They would stay at a specific hotel off Jalan Tun Sambanthan before being flown to Jakarta. At Jakarta International, a corrupt airport official would be paid $1000 in US cash to open a side door to the airport and the mostly Arab men would slip out to a waiting bus without having to pass through the border gates. Their passports would be stamped on the bus or later at a hotel with a fake Customs stamp and entry/exit visas, used should they be stopped by local police at a later time. They would then be bussed to Sarina in North Jakarta where they would congregate at the local McDonald's waiting for orders. Others would be taken to Cipanos in the mountains or Puncak, another staging post, before setting sail from Lombok or Sumatra or even Cambodia. Intelligence points to these haunts being used today.
There are no special pitches, no facts, no planning or training. People are ready to just go. For the smugglers it was easy money. A boat cost on average $US20,000, the local Indonesian fisherman crew and corrupt airport officials would cost another $US20,000 but each passenger would pay between $2000 to $10,000, according to market demands.
"I know how to sell it, I know the places to talk to people, where they are. I know how to get a passenger to get his hand in his pocket and give it to me. It's very easy," Shadi says.
"You don't need to sell this, or say things like government will pay you money if you go, no one says that. It's just that everybody knows Australia is much better than their own country. That is it. We know by TV, newspaper, internet, you know what the life is like here, Western life. We give you promise to get there and we will try again and again and again until we get you there. We give you promise to leave in two weeks and if it's longer than two weeks we will pay for your hotel, accommodation, whatever."
Some people smugglers left when they had 60 passengers. Others waited for a minimum 200.
It costs about $US50,000 to organise a boat but with just 100 people $500,000 can be made.
It's a trade and the best boat, price and reputation gets the lion's share. One chief smuggler would go on the asylum seekers' boat as far as international waters, to assure them all was well, before a second shadowing smaller boat would take him off and he would leave them to their fate.
Meanwhile, the flood of asylum seekers now rushing Australia was a direct result of the Labor Government's policies, according to the men who are dispatching the boats.
For weeks, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has denied that the sharp rise in the number of refugee boats entering Australian waters had anything to do with his softening of his Liberal predecessor's hardline Pacific Solution doctrine.
Mr Rudd said the 29 per cent rise in arrivals was a worldwide phenomenon with other Western nations experiencing similar rises.
But according to a former smuggler now living in Australia, those coming know the change in policy now meant quick entry to the country and a strong likelihood refugee status would be granted within three month instead of years.
"The immigration rules in Australia were changed and everyone knows it and that's why so many are now coming," the smuggler, who can be identified only as Shadi, said yesterday.
"Before, the reasons it stopped was John Howard absolutely, he deterred some boats by force and Nauru Island where they [boat people] knew they could get stuck for one or two or three years. We and the passengers would check the internet daily to see what Canberra was doing and we all knew these things.
"This is very hard for everyone to imagine being in a camp like a jail. The idea is to get in quick, get a visa then return home to see family and then bring them all to Australia. No one wants to be without family for years under old laws. Now [with] new laws it's easy and quick, maybe weeks or a few months. You can call people on the mobile, you stay two or three weeks at Christmas Island then they call others."
Shadi said when the rules changed, the snake heads - leaders of the human smuggling operations - cut the price for a seat on their boat from $US10,000 to about $US4000.
Terrorism festers as Rudd's men fili-bluster
- by: By Charles Miranda
- From:The Daily Telegraph <http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au>
- January 15, 201012:00AM
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IN the latter half of last year, an extraordinary closed-door meeting took place in Canberra. The thrust of the colloquium was counter-terrorism.
Those present were senior officers from relevant commonwealth and state security agencies as well as "guests" from the US and the UK.
Had the public known or been invited, they would have heard a sobering up-to-date appraisal of the threat to our national security. This was not an academic talkfest but the fears of those on the frontline.
Their conclusions were clear - the threat to Australia was real, it was coming from quarters not previously anticipated and the country's security was still not fully integrated or flexible enough to deal with the baddies in our midst and offshore.
Sadly, despite being adequately represented at the secret forum, the message was apparently lost on the Federal Government and the office of the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who more than a year ago pledged to make national security his white-hot focus and yet continues to filibuster on the issue.
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- Anti-terror laws may go 'too far' <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/defence/anti-terror-laws-may-go-too-far-watchdog-warns/story-e6frg8yo-1226304590789> The Australian, 20 Mar 2012
- Australian threat level remains at medium <http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/australian-threat-level-remains-at-medium-after-killing-of-osama-bin-laden/story-e6frfku0-1226048609028> The Daily Telegraph, 2 May 2011
- America escalates secret war on terror <http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/world/america-ramps-up-secret-war-on-terrorists/story-e6frea8l-1225983896127> Adelaide Now, 8 Jan 2011
- Spy agency grounds jihadis <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/spy-agency-grounds-jihadis/story-fn59niix-1225941960005> The Australian, 22 Oct 2010
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Last year a much vaunted "white paper" policy setting out Australia's counter-terrorism strategy was to be released. But it has again been lost in platitudes and promises about the nation's need to have a coherent doctrine on the issue.
And none are more worried than those working behind the scenes to keep us safe at night. They see clear gaps in security that politically are not being addressed.
Primary among those gaps was the one played out over Christmas in the US where, in President Barack Obama's words, someone forgot to "join the dots" on the threat from a known 23-year-old al-Qaeda-backed Nigerian who tried to bring down an airliner en-route to Detroit.
The threat was thwarted through luck, not due diligence. The systemic failures that allowed the suspect to board the plane with a makeshift bomb device should be a warning to all Western governments.
There may be a reason for the white paper's continued absence - those familiar with the draft describe it as wishy-washy with lots of buzz words but little strategic substance. That is a concern.
It is understood the Canberra meeting found that while geographically Australia's isolation did not make it the easiest target, home-grown threats were very real - evident in the recently uncovered terror plots based on Sydney and Melbourne.
Risk to an Australian is still highest while travelling abroad, but elements in the local community are plotting and making threats, while lack of co-ordination between agencies, as seen in the US, also exists.
The growing population of convicted terrorists in Australia and the poisonous thoughts and intentions they continue to promulgate from behind bars was also highlighted as a significant risk to our national security. This was a serious issue in the UK recently, when some released terror sympathisers picked up where they left off and with new followers.
Lastly, it highlighted that various state and commonwealth security agencies were hamstrung by their own rigid operational doctrine that prevented a decent and practical level of intelligence sharing. It's an intelligence structure driven by a Cold War paradigm and, despite countless expensive inquiries and reviews, it has apparently yet to be overcome. Terrorists are flexible. So too should be our security agencies.
Professor Ross Babbage, patron of the not-for-profit Kokoda Foundation that is researching solutions to Australia's future security challenges, said the nature of intelligence arrangements in Australia were good but far from perfect.
Professor Babbage, who has had extensive experience in the intel world, including service as a former head of strategic analysis in the Office of National Assessments (ONA), confirmed current terror prisoners and lack of co-ordination between agencies were chief among concerns. He said counter radicalisation programs were needed in jails to ensure a change in mindsets.
"There is clearly a need for tailored programs that need to be run in the jail system to make sure these guys are brought into a new way of life, so that when they leave they don't try to run terror operations or don't encourage others to do the same thing," Professor Babbage said.
"The problem is most of the jails are in state jurisdictions and the Commonwealth is particularly concerned about this but it's not for the Commonwealth to do very much about it because it's a state responsibility.
"Now the states, I suspect, are not doing enough. It needs to be ramped up and quickly because there are a few guys in the next couple of years getting out and frankly we know from Guantanamo Bay that a significant number of guys who were released to their countries have actually gone on to run terrorist operations.
"This is not Mickey Mouse stuff and if we're not careful, we could cause more problems for ourselves down the track.
"This is something all states have to get serious about and get co-ordinated and it has to be done well."
Another issue that needs addressing in the Federal Government's white paper is clarifying competing interests in counter-terrorism where one agency, say ASIO, is out to disrupt a plot while the AFP is about ensuring there is enough evidence to bring the accused to court.
The grey area is at what stage to move, highlighted by the case of now convicted terrorist Faheem Khalid Lodhi whereby authorities were forced to move for fear of an imminent attack, thus disallowing cases to be mounted against others suspected of being involved in his plot.
A final concern, as agencies themselves highlighted, is their "need to know" culture that makes it a breach of law for one agency to get hold of technical intelligence from certain others. It is counter productive counter-intelligence.
Professor Babbage suggests the way to resolve the issue is to have multi-agency operational teams, with domestic (ASIO) and international (Defence Signals Directorate or ONA) focus, working from one table, on one issue, from various angles. This would require significant legislative rewrites, which in turn needs politicians to act. Public perception in some quarters may be that counter-terrorism is not a priority or a concern, but it should be, as should the white paper to set strategic direction.
"It's a bit like a duck, it looks calm on the surface but below people are paddling like crazy to protect us. We're reaping overall success but no one is feeling complacent about it," Professor Babbage said.