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The BBC's Red Harrison in Sydney
"Many who arrive in Australia illegally are deported within days"
 real 28k

Thursday, 23 December, 1999, 08:14 GMT
Australia cracks down on people smuggling

Afghan refugees Refugees seeking asylum in Australia could miss out

Australia's immigration minister is to tour the Middle East in an effort to stem the flow of illegal immigrants from the region.

The Pacific nation is targeting so-called people smugglers as it begins an international push to cut down the number of people trying to enter the country illegally.

You will NOT be welcome
Anti-immigration poster
Immigation Minister Philip Ruddock plans to tour Iran, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan next month to negotiate ways to discourage people from trying to jump the migration queue.

In the past seven weeks alone, some 2,000 people have been barred from entering Australia.

Many had come from the Middle East, and had paid thousands of dollars to people-smugglers to travel to Australia by the crowded, unsanitary boatload.

No-nonsense message

The campaign will include posters warning people of the tough penalties for trying to jump the immigration queue.

"You will NOT be welcome, you WILL be kept in detention centers, thousands of kilometers from Sydney and you could LOSE all your money and be sent back," the posters said.

Mr Ruddock said the posters emphasised Australia's tough new stance on immigration.

Chinese boatpeople in Australia Some 3,000 illegal immigrants are in Australian detention camps
"In the long term people smuggling can derail entirely Australia's international response to refugee situations," Mr Ruddock said.

Australia's annual 12,000 place refugee and humanitarian programme was the highest per capita in the world, he said.

The Australian Government has introduced tough new laws to stem people smuggling, with those convicted facing up to 20 years in jail and fines of up to Aus$220,000 (88,100).

It also increased the amount to be spent on locating and removing illegal immigrants, from Aus$128m (51.3m) in 1998/99 to Aus$196m (78.5m) in 1999/2000.

Boatpeople granted refugee status were no longer eligible for permanent residency as part of temporary protection visas, and will instead have to apply for three-year visas.

Thousands detained

Authorities are now holding some 3,000 people in detention camps around the country.

Amnesty International has criticised Australia for focusing on boatpeople when government records showed far more illegal immigrants from Britain and the United States.

Mr Ruddock said there were about 50,000 people living illegally in Australia after overstaying their visas.

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See also:
12 Aug 99 |  Americas
The deadly trade of human smuggling
27 Jun 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia to crack down on illegal immigrants
14 Aug 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Australians seize Iraqi 'illegals'
13 Aug 99 |  Americas
Human smugglers caught off US coast
06 Jun 99 |  Asia-Pacific
'No Olympic amnesty for illegals'
17 Jun 99 |  Asia-Pacific
New Zealand toughens immigration laws

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