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Source: Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

Australian Border Force (ABF) officers have detained five Malaysian nationals suspected of being part of a syndicate responsible for widespread exploitation of foreign workers in Perth’s construction industry.

Three of the men, aged 50, 51 and 64, were detained after ABF Field Operations officers executed a search warrant on an Embleton residence on Thursday, 17 December 2020.

A 52-year-old man was detained after a search warrant was executed on a Dianella residence on Thursday, 10 December.

The fifth man, aged 46, was detained at a commercial property in Beckenham on the same day.

All of the men were in Australia unlawfully.

The 52-year-old has already been returned to Malaysia. The other four will remain in immigration detention pending their departure from Australia.

The search warrants were part of Operation Battenrun, a national operation targeting labour hire intermediaries and entities of interest exploiting vulnerable onshore foreign workers, including unlawful non-citizens.

ABF Commander Operations West, James Copeman, said the pandemic had not diminished the ABF’s ongoing commitment to target criminals and unscrupulous individuals exploiting vulnerable foreign workers.

“We are always on the lookout for cases of foreign workers being underpaid, deprived of entitlements, and treated poorly,” Commander Copeman said.

“The ABF will not tolerate those people who are making significant profits by exploiting foreign workers.

“Operation Battenrun is targeting both the individuals and companies facilitating illegal work and migration fraud.

“Information gathered during these warrants will form the basis of further investigations into a number of Australian registered companies suspected of using the services of this syndicate.

“Companies can face significant financial infringements if found to be employing contract workers who are unlawful non-citizens or foreign citizens working outside the conditions of their visas.

“On top of the unacceptable exploitation of those workers it also disadvantages local businesses who do the right thing by paying and treating their workers properly.”

The Department of Home Affairs encourages all employers to conduct regular checks using the Visa Entitlement Verification Online system (VEVO) to ensure that their workers are permitted to work.

Information about VEVO can be found here.

The ABF encourages individuals who are being exploited, regardless of visa status, to come forward and provide information so action can be taken against those involved in these practices.

Anyone who is aware of an individual, business or employer who might be facilitating visa fraud or illegal work is urged to contact Border Watch at 


Media contact: Australian Border Force (02) 6264 2211