Border Force detains 34 illegal Woolgoolga workers

MORE than 30 people have been detained after Australian Border Force (ABF) officers working with the Australian Federal Police carried out several search warrants in Woolgoolga yesterday.

The Taskforce Cadena search warrants targeted a labour hire syndicate alleged to be employing a number of illegal foreign workers.

Taskforce Cadena investigators spoke to a number of workers and identified "indicators of exploitation" and Migration Act offences, which are now the subject of a criminal investigation.

The ABF said the individuals were working in the agriculture sector.

ABF officers identified and detained 14 unlawful non-citizens and 20 lawful non-citizens who were working in breach of their visa conditions.

All individuals in question are believed to be Malaysian.

The adult detainees have been transported to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre to await deportation to Malaysia.

Two minors have been transferred to an alternative place of detention.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, said the ABF and its partners are committed to stopping the exploitation of the visa system and vulnerable individuals.

"The Taskforce continues to gather intelligence across all industries where illegal work practices involving unlawful non-citizens and illegal foreign workers may be taking place," Mr Dutton said.

"Yesterday's operation sends a strong message to individuals and syndicates involved: if you are in Australia without a valid visa, if you work in breach of your visa conditions or if you are exploiting foreign workers, you will be caught."

Taskforce Cadena has completed 11 operations resulting in the arrest of three people, the detention of 95 unlawful non-citizens and the execution of 31 warrants since it began.

The ABF said some of those matters were ongoing, with investigators preparing briefs of evidence for consideration by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

People involved in the organisation of visa fraud and illegal work face penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment or fines up to $100,000.

People involved in the exploitation of foreign workers are liable for civil penalties of up to $10,800 per breach for a person or $54,000 for a corporation.

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