IT’S less than two months old but the Australian Border Force became well known for all of the wrong reasons on Friday.
The force had planned to spot check people’s visas on the streets of Melbourne this weekend as part of its Operation Fortitude, but the crackdown was cancelled at the last minute amid angry protests in the Victorian capital.
The furore has left the combined Customs and Immigration unit accused of being “uniformed goons” by one senator and an MP has likened it to a Stalinist operation.
The Australian Border Force (ABF), founded on July 1, had its officers shoved into the spotlight by an overeager press release, which hinted at activities as dark as the organisation’s quasi-military uniforms.
An announcement Friday morning made clear that ABF personnel would patrol the Melbourne CBD with police “speaking with any individuals we cross paths with”.
Visas would be demanded and checked.
And the aim was to “target crime in and around the Melbourne CBD to make the city a safer place for everyone”.
This was startling news for the many who might not have heard of the ABF, except perhaps as the officials who stamp passports at international terminals.
The idea they could roam city streets pulling up and threatening people was deeply disturbing.
“Either the Border Force are doing racial profiling, in which case they should stop it, or they are hassling everyone, and they should stop that as well,” Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm said.
“We do not need any more uniformed goons.
“This indicates that the Border Force should be radically downsized and its workers allowed to do something useful for a living.”
Think about how awful this sounded.
You’re walking around the Melbourne CBD and some uniformed officers approach you demanding you can prove you are a citizen or resident of Australia, or have a visa. If you can’t produce proof, bang you are arrested and/or deported.
Think if you’re a Kiwi, and don’t have your passport with you.
They have later said they will only be interacting with people who come to the attention of the Police. But the original release sounded like a bunch of goons marching up and down the streets of Melbourne demanding to see your papers. A huge own goal.