Roadside stop by Aussie police reveals migrant's 25-year secret

NSW Highway Patrol officers found seven members travelling in a van were unlawfully in Australia, with one for nearly a quarter of a century.

A van pulled over alongside a NSW highway pictured.
Police have called in Border Force after a traffic stop sparked by a seatbelt. Source: Traffic and Highway Patrol Command

A routine traffic stop by police after noticing an occupant of a minivan was not wearing a seatbelt has led to a stunning discovery, prompting the Australian Border Force to get involved in the matter.

Highway Patrol officers in Dubbo, NSW, pulled the van over on Wednesday while the Toyota Hiace was travelling along the Newell Highway in Brocklehurst. Officers noticed a passenger was not wearing a seatbelt and according to a statement from the Highway Patrol unit, police had grounds to search the vehicle which led to one troubling discovery after another.

Officers first found eight kilograms of illegal tobacco. The Albanese government this year launched a major crackdown on the smuggling and sale of illegally imported cigarettes with a booming illicit tobacco market thought to be fuelling organised crime groups. Photos from the scene show plastic bags of suspected contraband resting on a patrol car.

Officers said checks were then carried out on all the occupants of the van, revealing seven of them were unlawfully in Australia, with one for a period of nearly 25 years.

"Two men were charged in relation to the tobacco and will appear at Dubbo Local Court [today] on May 9," Police said. "They will face further action from the Australian Border Force."

According to police, five others "were detained under the Immigration Act and will face further action from the Australian Border Force in coming days for being unlawfully in Australia."

Police cars scene next to the van pictured in Dubbo during the traffic stop.
One member of the group has unlawfully been in the country for almost a quarter of a century. Source: Traffic and Highway Patrol Command

It comes as five men are believed to be in custody on Saibai Island off the far north Queensland coast after being intercepted by authorities in the Torres Strait, allegedly trying to enter Australia on a dinghy. The men are reportedly from West Africa but it is unclear whether they have claimed asylum in Australia.

Border security in the Torres Strait has come under fire this week after the reports of the incident, with Torres Strait Island Mayor Phillemon Mosby saying more federal government funding is needed to police people smuggling in his region.

Mr Mosby said the federal government had not told him about the detainees in his own backyard and he only finding out when alerted by a local councillor.

"She was informed by a family member who happened to drive down the road on Monday ... and found five guys casually sitting like normal locals," he told AAP.

"Nobody from the federal government ... contacted me or my office to let me know there has been a security breach in the region and that those five people were kept on Saibai."

Five men have been detained by Australian authorities on Saibai Island. Source: AAP
Five men have been detained by Australian authorities on Saibai Island. Source: AAP

The five men reportedly travelled through Indonesia to Papua New Guinea, allegedly using fake documents before attempting to enter far north Queensland.

Asked about the group's arrival, the Australian Border Force said it had "well-established processes to manage irregular movements of people in the Torres Strait".

Thirty nine people from Pakistan and Bangladesh were found north of Broome in Western Australia in February and flown to an offshore detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru.

with AAP

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