#AntiMuslimLaws are in full swing with the government today boasting of a record number of Muslims being forced off their flights and their travel plans disrupted. “Freedom of movement” has been another principle sacrificed in the name of maintaining the Capitalist order.
Counter-terrorism units ‘offloaded’ 199 passengers from flights in four months
About 200 passengers have been prevented from travelling on international flights from Australia since July, according to government-issued figures on the activity of airport-based counter-terrorism units.
The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, spoke about the figures at a media conference in Brisbane on Friday but did not reveal how many of these passenger “offloads” had resulted in confirmed security threats or prosecutions.
An offload refers to a traveller being subject to an intervention by a counter-terrorism unit and not travelling as originally intended.
Between the start of July and the end of October, 199 passengers have been offloaded from their flights “for national security reasons, concerns about their intended travel destination or other suspicious behaviour” including worries that they might be travelling to join the conflict in Iraq or Syria.
Dutton said this four-month figure was almost two-thirds of the total offloads (336) conducted in the 2014-15 financial year – reflecting “a dramatic increase” in such removals.
This means there have been 535 passenger offloads since the counter-terrorism units began operating at Australia’s international airports in August 2014.
Dutton said many passengers subjected to offload were able to continue their journey at a later time “but a significant number of people of national security concern have been detected” in the process.
“I want to assure the travelling public and assure the Australian people today that we have a world-class agency in Australian Border Force that is staring down the threat at our airports every day,” he told reporters at an event at Brisbane International airport.
When asked to give an indication as to how many offloads had led to legitimate threats being established, Dutton was unable to give an immediate answer.
The minister said some of the people had been referred to the Australian federal police, Asio and other agencies “and there would be some prosecutions that are initiated” or surveillance undertaken.
Dutton said people who were stopped from leaving “may well decide to manifest their terrorist activity domestically and that’s a threat that we live with and the government is doing everything possible to keep the Australian public safe”.
But underlining the policy rationale for preventing departures, Dutton said that people who joined the fighting in Middle East conflict zones could become more radicalised and pose an increased risk upon their return to Australia.
The government has previously released details about certain cases of offloads, including a group of five men and another pair who tried to depart Sydney airport in August.
The term “offloading” does not necessarily mean people were physically removed from a plane about to depart. It may also mean the people were in the departure area but their names were removed from the flight manifest.
Guardian Australian asked Dutton’s office for more detailed figures, including the number of offloaded passengers who were subsequently allowed to travel, but a spokesman said: “For operational and security reasons we do not provide a statistical breakdown of offloads either by region or outcome.
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