5 Jun 2012

Australia orders inquiry into people-smuggler claims

4:14 pm on 5 June 2012

Australia's Immigration Minister has ordered an investigation into findings that people smugglers have posed as asylum-seekers to gain entry to the country.

An ABC investigation screened on Monday night revealed that a people-smuggling kingpin passed himself off as a refugee two years ago and now operates his business from a suburb in Canberra.

Captain Emad, also known as Abu Khalid, allegedly captained an asylum boat from Indonesia, but then acted like an ordinary passenger when Australian authorities arrived.

He was taken into detention on Christmas Island and was given a protection visa and Australian residency on April 20, 2010, three months after his boat arrived, the ABC reports.

Captain Emad and other smugglers passed Australian Security Intelligence Organisation checks and allegedly went on to set up lucrative people smuggling deals in the country.

On Tuesday, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said he had ordered an investigation into the case as well as separate allegations that a people-smuggler's wife works for his department.

Mr Bowen says he has no tolerance for anyone who falsely claims refugee status.

"I've asked my department to examine those allegations and to assess whether there is a case to answer for refugee status to be revoked."

Mr Bowen says it is important to make sure the allegations are investigated "appropriately" and will not put a time frame on the process.

Opposition leader Tony Abbot says the revelations are shocking.

"Not only have they managed to get into this country without detection, but apparently they have been living in taxpayer-funded housing."

Mr Abbot says if television stations can find people-smugglers, the government should be able to stop them.