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September 20, 2017

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Australia to create new border super agency

SYDNEY -- Australia on Friday announced a new frontline border protection agency merging operations from the customs and immigration departments to build on its success in stopping boatpeople and tackle the growing menace of transnational crime.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the new Australian Border Force agency would be led by a high-powered civilian commissioner who would report directly to him and that it was based on models used by Britain and the United States.

Australia has adopted a hard-line policy against asylum-seekers entering its waters on unauthorized boats, with its military-led Operation Sovereign Borders having prevented any new arrivals for more than four months.

Speaking ahead of the conservative government's first budget next week, Morrison said stopping the boats had created AU$2.5 billion (US$2.34 billion) in savings, as he announced six more detention centers would be closed, in addition to four closures already announced.

"This is the fiscal dividend of the coalition's stronger border protection policies," he said.

Under the policy, boats are being turned back to Indonesia, where most originate, while anyone that does arrive is sent to camps on remote Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island in the Pacific for processing. They are denied resettlement in Australia.

"The creation of the Australian Border Force is about strengthening our borders. It is a reform measure, not simply a savings measure," Morrison said of the new super agency, which will remove duplication and potentially deliver significant cost benefits.

"Now what that will do is ensure we have an integrated presence on our border to not just be dealing with people-smuggling but the full range of threats."

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