Immigrant invasion investigated by border protection
UPDATE: Immigration authorities are investigating the invasion of about 600 illegal workers at a Lockyer Valley farm.
A Department of Immigration and Border Protection spokesman confirmed the incident is being investigated after bus loads of migrant workers arrived at Steep Gully Produce on Tuesday morning, looking for work.
When they were informed there were positions available for just 100, the large group became aggressive and began throwing onions at other workers.
"The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is aware of an incident that occurred (on Tuesday) at a Lockyer Valley farming property, and is conducting investigations into the matter," a spokesman said.
"Queensland police responded to the incident and is also investigating the circumstances surrounding the matter."
The Tuesday morning incident is not the first time issues with illegal workers being found in the Lockyer Valley.
The spokesman said the department was "well aware of illegal work issues around the country, including in the Lockyer Valley region" and had taken steps to educate employers and "where appropriate, detain and remove illegal workers".
About 100 illegal workers have been located and detained in Queensland, a fraction of the more than 600 people detained across Australia.
"As recently as two weeks ago, officers visited several contractors in the area to conduct education sessions, and several investigations into illegal work are ongoing," he said.
The spokesman said employers had access to free online services to check visa details of non-citizens when considering them for employment.
"The Visa Entitlement Verification Online tool is on the department's website," he said.
"Employers can ask non-citizens to email their current visa conditions directly to the employer through the VEVO email service.
"Sanctions under the legislation include administrative warning, infringements, civil penalties and criminal offences.
"Regional employers and labour hire contractors that are found hiring illegal workers face substantial fines and civil penalties for allowing or referring people to undertake illegal work."
People with information about illegal workers or visa overstayers can contact the Department on 1800 009 623 or visit the Department's website: http://www.border.gov.au/about/contact/report-suspicious-activities-behaviour/immigration-citizen-fraud-offences
WEDNESDAY 4PM: The State Government has been called on to investigate circumstances which ultimately led to 600 illegal immigrants threatening a Lockyer Valley farmer when they were denied work Tuesday morning.
Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones said his council yesterday afternoon passed a motion to call on Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Police Minister Jo-Ann Miller to review the situation.
About 600 immigrant workers had arrived at Steep Gully Produce early Tuesday morning after being arranged through a labour contractor that work was available for them on the farm.
But when they were told there was only 100 positions available, Steep Gully Produce owner Fiona Thorne said the workers became agitated and aggressive, allegedly throwing vegetables.
Cr Jones said that threatening behaviour was unacceptable, and has called for the situation to be investigated.
"The motion was that we write to the (State Government) and we tell them that we are very concerned at what we've heard and the details of what went on," he said.
"What is our business is the lifestyle and the lifestyle of the farmers and their security.
"We would like a full investigation as to what actually happened, first of all, and what action the state is going to take.
"I made it clear the issues around immigration are not our business - this was simply a situation of people coming onto property and acting inappropriately."
Cr Jones said he had discussed the matter with police who he understood were treating it as a trespass situation.
It is understood the Department of Immigration and Border Protection had been alerted to the situation.
The department has been contacted by The Chronicle for comment.
WEDNESDAY 10AM: Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones is calling for an investigation into how a local producer could be made to feel threatened on their own land at the hands of unruly workers.
Mr Jones said the situation which unfolded at Steep Gully Produce yesterday morning where 600 illegal workers became aggressive after being denied work was unacceptable and should be investigated by the authorities.
He said it didn't matter if the workers were illegal or not, the fact a farmer on their own land was made to feel unsafe and threatened was unacceptable.
"I think the issue here is a farmer has advertised for people to do come work and they have turned up on buses which has been organised by someone," he said.
"People here, we pride ourselves on a great lifestyle and the questions that need to be asked is where did they come from, who organised it, and what is going to be done?"
Seven Local News last night reported some of the 600 workers that had been bussed to Steep Gully Produce in search of work became unruly and allegedly threw produce at farm workers.
Farm owner Fiona Thorne said there were not enough jobs for the 600 workers, with only 100 positions available.
Mr Jones said the situation was a "human rights issue for the farmers here".
"It's about them being safe on their own place," he said.
"Yesterday when I made some inquiries I was told it had been put off to the Immigration Department and that's all find, but that's nothing to do with the issue because wherever they're from if you act outside the law, you need to be dealt with."
Mr Jones said he understood the incident was being treated as a "minor trespass matter".
He said he would contact police and relevant authorities today.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been contacted for comment.
TUESDAY: Six-hundred illegal immigrants are on the run after turning up at a Lockyer Valley farm demanding work this morning.
Steep Gully Produce's owners were forced to call police when the bus loads of immigrants became agitated when they found out there was only work for 100.
The disgruntled crowd started throwing onions and abusing staff.
They had scattered by time police arrived.
Owner Fiona Thorne, speaking to 7 Local News Toowoomba, blamed the "scary" situation on a dodgy contractor.
Lockyer Valley police have reported the incident to the Department of Immigration.