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Did the AFP increase the number of boats into Australia for their own purposes?

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The SIEV X memorial, where a pole is held for each victim (Screenshot via YouTube)

In 2001, a major player in the people smuggling syndicate was discovered to be working for the AFP, writes Trish McDonald.

IN NOVEMBER 2001, Channel 9 Sunday program reporter, Ross Coulthart, presented a documentary that told of the circumstances that led to the sinking of the SIEV X and the human suffering that surrounded it. That boat was an overloaded death trap that broke up in 6-metre waves, en route to Australia, drowning 363 people, almost half of whom were children. It wasn’t the first time and it certainly wasn’t the last.

The horror and desperation that drove these people to pay their life savings to people smugglers in an attempt to find a life where they can raise their families in peace was so intense that one man would contemplate trying again, even after losing all the other members of his family except for one son that he managed to keep from drowning as they drifted for 22 hours in the sea.

The Indonesian Police knew who the smuggler was. The Indonesian Navy made it obvious that they would allow these derelict boats to pass through, sometimes even giving the refugees food and water, much to the annoyance of the Australian authorities. Australia had taken only 17 refugees from Indonesia over the previous five years. The Indonesian Police also knew where the smugglers touted for business. It was even known that one of the big-time smugglers was living in Australia at the time.

But, understandably, the Indonesian authorities had a problem to deal with that they justifiably considered they should have been sharing with Australia. Australia’s Immigration Department knew about this smuggler and, just to be sure, Ross Coulthart passed on all the information he’d garnered.

To put this into context, this was in 2001, at the time when PM John Howard was down in the polls and not expected to win the next election. Rising prices on petrol and almost everything else (due to the GST), hand-in-hand with an economic slowdown, had made the voters ready for change.

When 438 people were rescued from a sinking boat by a Norwegian Tanker (the Tampa) Howard refused to allow them to land on Christmas Island, leaving them to swelter and burn on a hot ship deck in the tropical sun for about ten days. Ensuing events (9/11 and more boat arrivals) gave Howard the excuse to excise the two most popular landing areas – Ashmore Reef and Christmas Island – and to create the “Pacific Solution”, redirecting all asylum seekers to Manus Island and Nauru.

In February 2002, Ross Coulthart again reported on people smugglers. This time, he’d discovered a man who claimed to the Indonesians that he was working for the Australian Federal Police and assured the AFP that he only worked undercover and handed over the people who were trying to buy passage to Australia to the Indonesian Police.

But Ross Coulthart found evidence that this man, Kevin Enniss, was no passive player. He was a major player in the people-smuggling syndicates, actively “encouraging and organising people-smuggling into Australia”. He (or his men) would solicit payment from asylum seekers and lure Indonesian crewman with the guarantee that the Australian Navy wouldn’t stop the boats because he worked for the AFP and he was the person who told the Australian Navy where to look.

Coulthart’s investigations revealed that Enniss was playing the AFP against two separate departments of the Indonesian Police. If the people couldn’t pay enough money he would either “shop” them to the Indonesian Police or tell the Navy where to find their boats. If they could pay, he’d still put them into dangerously decrepit and overloaded boats, but tell the crew how to reach Australia (Ashmore Reef) and how to avoid the Australian Navy. And he would promise the crew a bonus if they got back without being caught. He claimed to have “everyone in my pocket”. This seemed to include the Courts system. In 1999, Enniss was charged with fraud, but after six months in a Kupang gaol, those charges seemed to “disappear”.

Timor, at this time, was still a province of Indonesia. The Timor Immigration Department Chief told Coulthart he had personally informed the Australian Embassy in Jakarta that Enniss was a people smuggler. He had gathered hard evidence on Enniss’s activities and his association with criminals and had notified the Australians several times. The AFP confirmed that Enniss was a paid informer, but denied any knowledge of his people smuggling.

Frustrated with the inaction by the Australian authorities, the Timor Immigration Chief took his evidence to the Indonesian Rural Police, POLDA. At one point, he raided Enniss’s house in a wealthy suburb of Kupang and found 29 “foreigners” who told him that they’d paid Enniss money to get to Australia. Enniss insisted that it was a POLDA police operation and officers eventually arrived to confirm that it was. But the Indonesian Immigration Department was not convinced and ordered Enniss’s deportation, resulting in a phone call from the Australian Embassy demanding an explanation.

Coulthart gained evidence to prove that Enniss was a people smuggler and that he was taking money from asylum seekers. He also had Enniss on tape claiming that the AFP in Jakarta knew all about his activities. Yet, when he again asked the AFP, it was categorically denied.

Coulthart asked Dick Moses of the AFP directly:

“Has the Federal Police ever authorised any informant to involve themselves in people-smuggling?”

 

“Has the Australian Federal Police ever authorised any informant to take money off asylum-seekers intending to get illegal passage to Australia?”

Dick Moses replied:

“No, that’s categorically no. The Australian Federal Police has not done so.”

Nonetheless, the AFP established an investigation into the allegations, including all the information handed over to them by Coulthart. Their report found that there was no evidence to support those allegations and that Channel 9 had risked Enniss’s role as an AFP informant. It further stated that Enniss was employed by both the AFP and POLDA as an informant and that the money paid to Enniss by the asylum seekers was used to “transport, accommodate and feed the asylum seekers prior to their thwarted attempt to leave Indonesia for Australia”.

As Coulthart reported on 1 September 2002 on the Sunday program:

“[Enniss] was taking money from desperate refugees. He was claiming to be a police officer himself. We caught Enniss on hidden camera claiming to be able to guarantee passage to Australia because he knew the movements of the Australian Navy.”

 

“But, with the knowledge of the Australian Police, Enniss was playing a double game, turning in his victims to the authorities.”

At an alleged US$10,000 per person, that was very expensive transport, accommodation and food. And how many boats might he have facilitated?

My point is this: if the AFP, under John Howard, Peter Reith and Phillip Ruddock, were aware of the activities of Kevin Enniss, how can we be sure they didn’t employ similar tactics to create political trouble for Kevin Rudd? And how can we be sure that they won’t employ similar tactics to instigate a flood of refugees once the Labor Party wins the next election?

Trish McDonald is a blogger with a keen interest in politics and believes we must fight for our rights to education, health, justice, freedoms and our planet.

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Did the AFP increase the number of boats into Australia for their own purposes?

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