Boat crisis forces visa-raid halt

Paul Maley & Paige Taylor; 16/4/10

Immigration Department officials have been ordered to back off all non-essential visa checking, such as raids on brothels and illegal fruit pickers, as mainland detention centres are at risk of overflowing because of the constant transfer of asylum-seekers from Christmas Island. The Australian has learnt that Immigration Department compliance officers were told late last week to detain people only where necessary, because of the space pressure inside detention centres. The instructions, which were issued verbally, not in writing, are understood to have been handed down last Thursday and Friday. It is believed compliance officers were told to ease off all non-essential work and to detain people at airports only when absolutely necessary. Yesterday, a spokesman for the department conceded there was “some pressure” on detention centres onshore.