A joint Australia-Malaysia operation to target people smuggling in Malaysian territorial waters has wrapped up this week.
The 15th iteration of Operation Redback began on June 22 and concluded in Langkawi on Wednesday.
Led by the Malaysia Coast Guard (MCG) with participation from the Australian Border Force (ABF), the Redback aimed to counter people smuggling in the region through strategic communication and a patrol in the northern waters of the Malacca Strait.
The two agencies shared information and operational skills, and built interoperability during the operation, ABF commissioner Michael Outram noted.
“Redback operations continue to make us better prepared to effectively deal with the broad range of maritime security challenges we face independently and together as partners,” he said.
Admiral Maritime Dato’ Mohd Zubil bin Mat Som, director general of the MCG, said Redback XV was particularly important to both countries in understanding how to address maritime threats posed by the pandemic.
“COVID-19 has the potential to change the people smuggling environment, and as partners in the region, it is integral for Malaysia and Australia to work together to combat potential threats in the maritime domain,” Mohd Zubil said.
More than 50,000 people came to Australia illegally on more than 800 boats between 2008 and 2013, and at least 1,200 people drowned, according to home affairs minister Karen Andrews.
“I won’t allow the people smuggling threat to re-emerge, which is why joint border protection activities, such as Redback XV, are so important. Cooperation strengthens Australia’s border protection arrangements, and strengthens the arrangements of our near neighbours,” she said.
“People smugglers are constantly monitoring developments in Australia and are ready to market any perceived policy change to vulnerable people, callously risking lives at sea in the process.”
Rear Admiral Mark Hill, commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, said Redback showcased the MCG’s and ABF’s ability to ‘deliver strategic communications as a deterrent to maritime people smuggling ventures’. This was underscored by the Australian government’s Zero Chance anti-people smuggler campaign, he said.
“Australia values and appreciates Malaysia’s ongoing contribution to regional efforts to combat maritime crime and we look forward to working with Malaysian authorities on future Redback activities,” he said.