Illegal entry prevention

People who arrive in Australia without lawful authority either come on their own accord without any involvement by organisations, or their travel is organised by criminal networks and/or people smuggling syndicates.

People smuggling involves the illegal movement of people across international borders, usually for payment. This implies a voluntary agreement between the organiser and the person being smuggled.

Not all people who have arrived in Australia without a visa use the services of people smugglers. Some people organise their travel and use the facilities offered by those who provide fraudulent travel documents and other forms of identity.

Operation Sovereign Borders

Joint Agency Task Force (JATF) Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB) was established on 18 September 2013 to ensure a whole-of-government effort to combat people smuggling and protect Australia's borders.

OSB is a military-led, border security operation supported and assisted by a wide range of Australian Government agencies.

Combating people smuggling and unauthorised arrivals

This section provides information about how we combat people smuggling and unauthorised arrivals using onshore intelligence, offshore compliance operations, the IMtel system and Airline Liaison Officers.

Our Intelligence Network

Our Intelligence Network attempts to combat people smuggling, fraud and unauthorised arrivals in Australia.

Their role is to collect, disseminate and report information and intelligence relating to immigration activities. The data is maintained in the department's Global Intelligence database, IMtel. IMtel provides departmental officers with real-time access to information and intelligence collected globally. Network activities are supported by analysts in the Canberra-based Intelligence Analysis Section.

The network consists of National Intelligence officers and Overseas Compliance officers.

Onshore Intelligence

There are 18 National Intelligence officers deployed in State and Territory Offices to collect, analyse and report on people smuggling, trafficking and irregular migration.

The officers are placed at key ports (air and sea) and work closely with other Australian government agencies on a regular basis.

Offshore Compliance Operations

There are over 30 specialist compliance officers attached to key posts overseas to identify, respond to and counter immigration fraud and malpractice. Compliance officers also work closely with local police and immigration officials to combat people smuggling, trafficking and irregular migration.

IMtel – Our Global Intelligence IT system

IMtel was successfully deployed to Australian diplomatic missions in May 2006. IMtel allows immigration intelligence to be stored electronically and accessed by authorised department staff both, in Australia and overseas. The Australian-made software provides powerful analytical tools and reporting systems to support the department's work.

ALO network

The Airline Liaison Officers (ALO) network is another important part of the strategy in place securing Australia's borders.

Number of Airline Liaison Officers are located at international airports that have direct flights to Australia. ALOs are specialist document examiners. They work closely with airlines, immigration and airport staff at major overseas airports to:

  • prevent travel to Australia of potentially inadmissible passengers
  • facilitate the travel of genuine passengers.

ALOs assist airline and airport staff in document examination, to check for irregularities in passengers' documents. They also provide training to host nation immigration authorities, and airline and airport security staff on Australia's entry requirements. Although airlines decide whether to allow passengers to board their intended flight, these decisions are often made following ALO advice regarding the authenticity of the passengers' travel documents.

By maintaining a visible presence at international airports, ALOs act as a deterrent to people smugglers and passengers who are inadequately documented. As part of the international cooperation to combat people smuggling and irregular migration, Australian ALOs and their counterparts from other Governments participate in short-duration multi-national exercises held at select airports overseas. Their aim is to stop passengers who have irregularities in their travel documents.

The ALO program is a flexible initiative generally involving, the short-term placements of officers for three to six months. Besides maintaining a number of formal placements, the ALO program has the capacity to respond at short notice, sending officers to undertake traditional or modified ALO duties for a brief period in areas of concern.

Remote area management

Initiatives for providing services in remote areas, such as Torres Strait, to facilitate people movement and border protection.

Torres Strait

Our North Queensland District has full-time officers based on Thursday Island who provide a full range of immigration services including visas issue, citizenship and residency applications.

These officers also manage a network of Movement Monitoring Officers (MMO), monitoring issues arising from the Torres Strait Treaty and the traditional flow of people in the Torres Strait. They make regular visits to the islands and participate in treaty discussions.

The MMOs are based on the 14 inhabited islands and play an important role in border protection. The MMO network operates as a dispersed group, integrated into local communities, providing considerable coverage throughout the Torres Strait. Not only are they experts in their local communities but they act as a conduit for wider community information. The MMOs work closely with island chairpersons and their community to manage the traditional flow of people and report on any other movement in the region.

More information is available at Fact Sheet 72 –The Department of Immigration and Border Protection's role in the Torres Strait.