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The prosecution of migrant smugglers is a central element of Australia’s efforts to combat the smuggling of migrants. Due to the large number of ‘suspected irregular entry vessels’ (SIEVs) arriving in Australia, courts have been awash with prosecutions of the crews manning these vessels and, in some cases, the organisers behind the migrant smuggling ventures.

Research conducted by the UQ Migrant Smuggling Working Group into people smuggling prosecutions in Australia in the period 2008 to 30 June 2011 found that the most immediate effect of these prosecutions was the gaoling of hundreds of poor Indonesian fishermen who are recruited to undertake the final journey to Australian territory. The organisers and masterminds behind these ventures, however, mostly escaped arrest and prosecution. It was also found that the prosecutions had not been successful in deterring would-be migrant smugglers and that the mandatory minimum penalties associated with Australia’s people smuggling offences forced sentencing judges to impose punishment greater than the circumstances justified.

The full findings of this research have been published in:
Andreas Schloenhardt & Charles Martin, ‘Prosecution and Punishment of People Smugglers in Australia 2008–2011’ (2012) 40 Federal Law Review 111

Building on these findings, a further research project completed by the UQ Migrant Smuggling Working Group in June 2015 examines trends and developments in people smuggling prosecutions in Australia in the period 1 July 2011 to 31 December 2014. This period is of particular significance because of the growing numbers of smuggled migrants who arrived during this period, leading to an unprecedented volume of people smuggling prosecutions. Secondly, as result of this development, the Attorney-General issued a direction in August 2012, instructing federal prosecutors not to institute or continue prosecutions in certain circumstances. Thirdly, the change of government in Australia from the Labor Party to the Liberal-National Coalition resulted in the abolition of this direction and the institution of a great range of policy, legislative, and practical measures aimed at preventing irregular migrants from reaching Australia

The full findings of this research have been published in:
Andreas Schloenhardt & Colin Crain, ‘Prosecution of People Smuggling in Australia 2011-14’ (2016) 38(1) Sydney Law Review 49-83.