Immigration Blitz Nets Nearly 100 Meatworkers

Immigration blitz nets nearly 100 meatworkers

Yuko Narushima
Sydney Morning Herald
March 12, 2009

A SIMULTANEOUS blitz by immigration officials and police has uncovered a fraud racket supplying up to 100 illegal workers to meatwork companies across three states.

Sydney residences were among homes and business searched in early morning raids yesterday which spanned NSW, Victoria and Queensland. At least four illegal workers were caught in Sydney and one was found in Wagga Wagga. All were from China.

The Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, said the operation had exposed a labour contractor allegedly working as a go-between for overseas workers and the Australian meat industry.

“The department's investigators received information from a number of sources about a labour-hire intermediary who was allegedly bringing Chinese foreign workers into Australia to be employed in meatworks unlawfully,” Senator Evans said. “The racket [used] fraudulent identities to gain employment for people without permission to work in Australia.”

Last night, 79 illegal workers had been identified and that number was expected to grow as more people were interviewed and confirmed as working in Australia illegally.

“The department believes up to 100 illegal workers are involved in the racket,” Senator Evans said. Investigations into identity fraud were under way and fake passports had been seized, he said.

The federal vice-president of the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, Patricia Fernandez, said a shortage of labourers had forced companies to look overseas for workers.

“The shortage of labour has been created by past governments not putting enough money into training for workers,” she said. “We find companies bringing in people through agencies and making them work at the expense of Australian workers.” Backpackers were the latest workers exploited for cheap labour, she said.

Raids were also conducted in Scone, Melbourne, Warrnambool in Victoria and Kilcoy in Queensland. Meatworks companies, unaware recruitment firms were allegedly supplying illegal workers, complied with the search, Senator Evans said.