Victoria''s CFMEU/Labor Police Minister on why authorities should back off from Visa checks for illegals
Australian Border Force backtracks on random visa stops
Protesters rally inside Flinders Street Station.
The farcical cancellation of random visa checks in Melbourne is the Australian Border Force’s fault, Victoria’s Police Minister says.
Wade Noonan said he was told Operation Fortitude was to be a standard police operation until the ABF’s “unfortunate and inappropriate characterisation”.
Border Force announced on Friday morning it would be “speaking to any individuals we cross paths with” in the Melbourne CBD. After online outrage about the random spot checks, the ABF clarified with “we will not stop people at random in the streets”. But it was too late to save Operation Fortitude, which was cancelled as 200 protesters swarmed Flinders Street Station and forced the press conference announcing it to be called off.
Victoria Police cancelled the operation just five hours after it was announced.
“We understand there has been a high level of community interest and concern which has been taken into consideration when making this decision,” a police statement said.
Mr Noonan said the government was told the operation would target anti-social behaviour and commuters to ensure people got home safely.
“We fully support the decision by Victoria Police to cancel the operation after the unfortunate and inappropriate characterisation by the Australian Border Force today,” Mr Noonan said.
Border Force workers told the Community and Public Sector Union they were worried about their safety and the public reaction. “They were deeply concerned at the suggestion they would be stopping all people on the street, which is not how their work has been done in the past,” union secretary Nadine Flood said.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton refused to comment, referring all media enquiries to Victoria Police.
Protest organiser Ezekiel Ox said the result was a “huge win” for Melbourne, and said locals would look out for any future attempt to check visas on the streets.
“Every single person here will be doing everything they can to impose themselves on those checks, they’ll be trying to interrupt those checks,” Mr Ox told AAP on Friday.
“They’ll be making it very difficult for the Border Force to do their job.” Opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the government’s over-zealous announcement of the operation was at best clumsy and at worst shambolic.
“This has been incredibly badly handled and Peter Dutton needs to immediately come clean on how this announcement was so botched,” he said in a statement.
Greens MP for Melbourne Adam Bandt said the operation could threaten Melbourne’s reputation as a welcoming city.
“How will the Border Force distinguish between locals, visitors and visa holders?” he told AAP.
Traffic and trams were held up for 30 minutes in Melbourne, before protesters stormed the gates of Flinders Street Station.