Human trade bosses in jail
[original source not stated]
Michael McKinnon
28 July 2001

TWO men in a Cambodian jail have been identified as the masterminds behind a smuggling ring responsible for bringing more than 2000 people to Australia.

Abraham Louhanapessy of Indonesia and Hasan Ayoub of Pakistan were arrested in early July after unsuccessfully trying to organise a record shipment of illegal immigrants to Australia. Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock said in Brisbane yesterday that the arrest of the men could be the "turning point" against illegal arrivals by boats to Australia.

Mr Ruddock said because authorities had caught the boat in port, investigations had revealed almost all passengers had documentation contrary to the normal situation when boats land on Australian shores.

"It shows people smugglers are coaching illegal immigrants to destroy documentation before arriving in Australia," Mr Ruddock said.

"Of the 248 people on the boat, 130 were of Pakistani nationality with 95 of the passengers agreeing to be sent home immediately.

"All of the people smugglers clients needed documentation to get into Cambodia and even those who claimed to be from Afghanistan had been born outside that country or had recent residency entitlements for Pakistan or the Gulf States."

The two people smugglers had set up operations in Cambodia, after Indonesian authorities cracked down on people smugglers. It is understood that Louhanapessy is responsible for logistics such as boats and crews while Ayoub, also known as Captain Bram [sic], sold tickets to passengers.

Both men face up to 15 years in jail under Cambodian law.

The two men were understood to be heading to Indonesia to pick up more passengers when captured. It is believed they planned to land in Australia even more passengers than the 353 illegal immigrants who arrived on Ashmore Reef in November 1999.

Mr Ruddock said yesterday the Government could improve access to benefits for people with temporary protection visas if the number of illegal boats arriving in Australia continued to be cut. No boats had arrived in July.

He said the arrest of the two men was "a major breakthrough" because Pakistan was a key entry point for the smugglers' pipeline.

Mr Ruddock said as many as 2000 people might still be in the pipeline but potential illegal immigrants in Pakistan had started reconsidering their options following the arrest of the two men and subsequent publicity.

"One of the issues we have faced is that smugglers have used the level of benefits available in Australia as a clear incentive to potential illegal immigrants," he said.

"If limited access to benefits and support were changed, smugglers would use it as a ploy but the Government may consider changes in the medium-term if the arrival of boat people was to stop."


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