Sydney (dpa) – Australia is pulling more people off international flights on suspicion of terrorism, the government announced Friday.
In the last four months 199 passengers were prevented from flying by counter-terrorism officers due to security concerns or suspicions the travellers planned to join fighting in the Middle East.
This compares with 336 such interventions in the twelve months between July 2014 and June 2015.
The “dramatic increase” reflected increased surveillance at international airports, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said.
“Maintaining strong security at our borders is critically important in stopping those with evil intent or impressionable young people who have fallen prey to terrorist propaganda from leaving Australia to join murderous terror groups like Islamic State.”
Many were stopped because they exhibited suspicious behaviour or their reason for travelling warrented investigation. Others were on a watch list by counter-terror units.
Many continued their journey later after security investigations, but “counter-terror units had detected a significant number of people of national security concern during the offload process,” Dutton said.
An offload was described as an intervention at the airport or on the plane by counter-terrorism staff, preventing the suspect from travelling as planned.
Several of those prevented from flying out of Australia were school children who Dutton said planned to join conflicts in the Middle East.