Australia announces new people-smuggling fight

CANBERRA, May 12, 2009 (AFP) – Australia on Tuesday announced what it called the largest surveillance operation in the country’s history to fight people-smuggling amid a surge in refugees making for its shores. Unveiling the annual budget, the government committed an extra 1.3 billion Australian dollars (990 million US) to strengthening border security, including two additional spotter planes and an extra surveillance ship.

“A global spike in people-smuggling activity around the world, including in Australian waters, means we need more resources to deal with this global problem,” the government said in a statement.

“This strategy will include the largest surveillance and detection operation against people-smuggling in Australian history.”

New customs posts would be established in the critical transit countries of Malaysia and Sri Lanka, and Australia’s diplomatic presence would be bolstered in Indonesia, it said.

More money would be dedicated to “ramping up” a policing partnership with Indonesia to investigate people-smuggling, and extra funds will be provided for counter-terrorism, prosecutions and airport security.

“The government does not believe this commitment can or should