There has been a huge surge in the number of travellers who have been stopped from boarding flights at Australian airports, with counter-terrorism units “off-loading” nearly 200 people in recent months.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the passengers, who numbered 199 since July, were blocked from catching flights for reasons of national security.
The figure represented a significant increase in the number of interceptions by specialised Australian Border Force (ABF) officers, Dutton said.
“One of the main reasons would be as to why somebody would be off-loaded is that there is suspicious behaviour that they're exhibiting that would lead us to think that they are heading off to fight in Syria, for example.”
By comparison, some 336 people were stopped at Australian airports in the 12 months to June 2015, the ABC reported.
Although Dutton said many of the intercepted passengers were able to continue their journey at a later time, a significant number are of national security concern.
“Some of the people have been referred to the Australian Federal Police, to ASIO, to other agencies and there would be some prosecutions that are initiated,” he said.
Among the people stopped in recent months was a minor.
“After questioning and an examination of his baggage he was prevented from travelling and referred to other agencies for investigation ... this is not an isolated incident,” Dutton said.
The UK government has given Australia the highest terror threat alert, telling travellers that the threat of terrorism in Australia is as high as it is in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Tunisia.
The revelation comes on the back of recent terror attacks in Paris, which left at least 129 people dead.
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