The media have been busy the past couple of days reporting on a press release submitted on behalf of the newly formed task force, the Australian Border Force (ABF). The interest in this press release comes from the alleged ‘announcement’ that a new operation would take place on the streets of Melbourne using the combined forces of the ABF and the Victorian police.
As stated in the bungled press release, “Operation Fortitude” would see the placement of ABF officers scattered around Melbourne’s CBD and conducting on-the-spot visa checks. When this was brought to the attention of the general public a group of protesters congregated in Federation Square labeling the proposed operation as ‘racist.’
The controversy continued as it was announced that this press release had never been approved by Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton. Upon further investigation and pressure from the public, media and other government departments Prime Minister Tony Abbott set things straight in a press conference. “Unfortunately the press release was very, very badly worded but no one had been, no one ever will be, randomly stopped in the street for some kind of visa check.”
Operation Fortitude was never created as a way to conduct visa checks and was actually just an operation instigated by the Victorian police to sort out unruly behavior targeted around the CBD across the weekend. “What was happening as part of this Victorian police operation to, I gather, crack down on anti-social and unlawful activity at transport hubs, was that anyone who the Victorian police suspected might have a visa issue would then be referred to Australian Border Force in the normal way,” Mr Abbott clarified.
Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia and a popular destination for international students and skilled workers and the Australian government and Department of Immigration is doing everything it can to keep it that way.