Fifty illegal foreign workers have been found in Western Australia’s south-west and detained in Australian Border Force raids targeting shadowy labour hire intermediaries and exploitative employers.
Search warrants carried out in Pemberton last Wednesday found 50 foreign workers, understood to be mostly Malaysians, either in Australia illegally or who had breached their visa conditions by working.
Forty-five of the workers are in immigration detention with the immigration status of the other five to be resolved.
The Australian Border Force was tipped off about a labour hire intermediary company operating illegally in Pemberton, a department statement said, and officers moved in on a motel where workers were packed into small rooms.
‘‘The exploitation of foreign workers can have a lasting negative impact on Australian communities and individuals,’’ ABF assistant commissioner investigations Wayne Buchhorn said.
‘‘This can include the underpayment and exploitation of vulnerable visa holders in workplaces and the closure of small businesses due to unfair competitive advantage gained by competitors not complying with the law.’’
No-one has been charged but evidence obtained during the raids would be used to continue investigations, he said.
The ABF’s Taskforce Cadena operation is targeting industries deemed high-risk including agriculture, hospitality, entertainment, poultry, security and beauty services.
Federal Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said he expected more raids.
‘‘I don’t want Australians being displaced from work by foreign workers,’’ Mr Dutton said.
‘‘If we have foreign workers here I don’t want them being exploited by labour hire companies or other employers.’’