Customs staff to be armed at airports, new Immigration Minister announces

Focus on deterrence: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Photo: Andrew Meares “New and emerging threats”: Customs officers at airports will be armed from next year. Photo: Customs Service

Customs officers will be armed at airports in the new year, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has announced as he cements his plan to crack down on crime gangs and drug traffickers in his new portfolio.

As of next year customs and border protection officers will be permitted to carry “personal defensive equipment”, which includes firearms, while on duty at Australian airports, Mr Dutton announced on Tuesday in his first media release as Immigration Minister.

“This measure will not only increase the capability of our future Border Force officers, it will also add another layer of deterrence at our borders, and will ensure that the travelling public is as safe as possible,” Mr Dutton said.

“This government is serious about border protection. People smugglers, transnational crime gangs and narcotic traffickers should be under no illusion. The government is committed to enhancing our nation’s border protection arrangements.

“The border of the future will be far more complex than the environment we face today, however, and so the Australian Border Force must be well trained and well equipped if they are to deal with the range of new and emerging threats our nation faces.”

The announcement comes as the immigration department prepares to merge with the Customs Service in July next year as the Australian Border Force, with increasing focus on deterrence at Australia’s borders and continuing the Abbott government’s resolve to “stop the boats”.

One day after the former health minister was sworn in as the Immigration Minister this month he took to Facebook to list his priorities as the incoming minister.

“If you’re an illegal bikie, if you’re part of an outlaw motorcycle gang involved in organised criminal activity, you’ve just made it to the top of my list,” wrote Mr Dutton on his fan page.

“Coming to Australia is a privilege and if you’re coming here harming Australians, ripping off our welfare system, committing serious crimes, then you’re at the top of my list for deporting.”

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