Sydney, Dec 23: A suspected French extremist carrying cans of chemical mace was caught trying to enter Australia two days after the Paris terror attacks, officials revealed today, with security screening of travellers from Europe tightened up.
Attorney-General George Brandis said the French national was detained at Melbourne airport on November 15 after arriving from the Middle East and deported. "There was an intervention by Australian Border Force including its counter-terrorism unit," Brandis told ABC radio.
"He was found to be in possession of prohibited goods, namely three cans of mace, his visa was revoked, he was held in detention and deported from Australia."
Brandis added that the unnamed man also possessed "extremist literature", without giving details. "This is yet another example of the determination of this government to keep our community safe, to keep it safe at the borders, just as we are determined to keep it safe in our streets," he said.
The Australian newspaper said following his deportation to France, the man of Arab descent was questioned by French authorities investigating links to the Paris terror plot. On November 13, a group of Islamic extremists killed 130 people in the French capital during attacks on the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France stadium and a string of bars and restaurants.
Since then, a series of new policy measures have been introduced in Australia to tighten the screening regime against EU nationals, especially those from France and Belgium, the newspaper reported.
The move reflects concerns that Islamic extremists in Europe who hold French, Belgian or other EU citizenship could exploit the traditionally more relaxed visa rules afforded to EU citizens coming to Australia.
"What I think this case illustrates is the care which the Australian government, through its agencies, including Australian Border Force, takes to ensure that everyone who arrives in Australia is subject to appropriate scrutiny," said Brandis. "Where there is an unacceptable risk threshold they are dealt with appropriately."