A coordinated national operation to tackle visa fraud and worker exploitation across Australia has already shown significant results, the immigration department has announced.

Operation Cloudburst, which involved 11 operations in all states across the country, has led to the detention of illegal workers and the gathering of crucial intelligence, according to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.


The operation has led to the detention of illegal workers and the gathering of crucial intelligence​

About 120 officers from the Immigration and Border Protection portfolio working with inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman's (FWO) office and State and Federal police carried out co-ordinated work in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

Dutton said this crackdown on illegal working and exploitation of workers sent a clear message to those doing the wrong thing. 'The vast majority of employers do the right thing, it is only a small minority who do not operate within the law,' he explained.

'The Australian Government has made it very clear to that small minority that we will not put up with unscrupulous employers and labour hire companies blatantly flouting the law and allowing overseas workers to work illegally in Australia,' he added.

Some 38 illegal workers, including 32 unlawful non-citizens and six people working in breach of their visa conditions were detained. Two of the people detained were operating labour hire arrangements, one without a visa and another whose student visa was immediately cancelled.

Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash said the operation had also led to the collection of important intelligence which would support future operational responses to exploitation of workers.

'This intelligence should lead to further investigation and possible prosecution and other court proceedings. The results of this operation show we're targeting and disrupting entities which seek to commit visa fraud and exploit foreign workers here in Australia,' she pointed out.

A total of 11 business entities and 12 residences linked to these business entities were visited. In Western Australia officials attended one residence and two businesses. Four suspected illegal workers were also located and intelligence collected on labour hire activities.

In South Australia three businesses were visited, intelligence gathered and the immigration status of more than 80 people checked, while in Queensland 22 suspected illegal workers were located and intelligence collected on labour hire activities and farming operations.

Officials attended seven residencies and two businesses in New South Wales where seven suspected illegal workers were located and intelligence collected on operations of a poultry company.

In Victoria, they visited four residences and one business and as a result five suspected illegal workers were located and intelligence collected on labour hire activities, while in Tasmania visa status checks were conducted and intelligence collected on farming operations.

Dutton said the suspected illegal workers are being detained at a range of immigration detention facilities and further enquiries are being made into the circumstances of their employment.

He also said that any possible instances of foreign worker exploitation identified from these enquiries will be passed to the FWO, who has responsibility of investigating instances of exploitation.

'Officers have made employers and visa holders aware of their obligations and the intelligence collected will now be followed up,' he said, adding that individuals who knowingly or recklessly use illegal workers face fines of up to $20,400 and/or two years imprisonment per illegal worker, while companies face fines of up to $102 000 per illegal worker.