THE Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison, today announced a boost to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service’s (ACBPS) presence in the Torres Strait.
Four ACBPS officers will be relocated to the Torres Strait and a Bay Class patrol boat will also be available to meet future operations in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.
“Following the recommendations from an internal assessment by the Service to have an enhanced presence in the Torres Strait, the Government has fully supported the addition of four extra Customs and Border Protection officers and a Bay Class patrol Boat,” Mr Morrison said.
“Under this new arrangement, officer numbers in the Torres Strait will increase from eight to 12.
“Papua New Guinea is our closest neighbour and a strong border presence will benefit both countries. Customs and Border Protection continually monitors risks at the Australian border and is ready to respond and adapt to a range of circumstances.”
Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has long advocated for an expanded presence in the Torres Strait and described this initiative as “a clear step in the right direction”.
“It’s good to see that we are starting to build up presence and assets in this region,” Mr Entsch said. “I will certainly advocate for further expansion and a greater focus in our area across all agencies, acknowledging the fact that this is our only real international border.”
The waters of the Torres Strait will now benefit from an extra patrol boat and four additional Customs and Border Protection officers.
The Service currently works collaboratively with other Commonwealth, State, and local council entities, along with the Papua New Guinean Government, to manage the Torres Strait through joint cross border patrols.
These patrols aim to reinforce cooperation between the Australian and Papua New Guinean Governments through maritime patrols and village community visits.
The last joint cross border patrol was completed on Friday, 15 November 2013, and included representatives from the ACBPS, Australian Federal Police, QLD Police, Papua New Guinea Customs, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and Papua New Guinea Immigration and Citizenship Service.
ACBPS officers are responsible for a number of border activities in the Torres Strait and parts of the mainland such as Cape York. Border activities range from inspecting incoming small craft, un-alerted illegal maritime arrivals in the north of the Strait, incoming international flights on Horn Island, and illegal foreign fishing.
The new arrangements will continue to develop and implement a proactive engagement program with Torres Strait communities.