National security wrap

The beat

Police granted powers to enforce quarantine

Governor-General David Hurley has declared an emergency granting Australian police powers to quarantine people with Covid-19 under human biosecurity control orders. People who fail to comply or escape from detention may face penalties ranging from fines up to imprisonment for five years. Criminal and civil penalties can also apply to people who refuse to comply with restrictions imposed by the federal health minister.

European police target SIM hijackers

Europol and local law enforcement agencies have arrested 26 suspects in Spain, Romania and Austria in a crackdown on SIM-swapping attacks. Fraudsters begin by convincing mobile phone network operators to transfer a victim’s phone number to a SIM in their possession. Criminal gangs can then make transactions with their victim’s stolen online banking details by using the one-time verification codes that banks send via SMS. More than €3 million (A$5.7 million) was stolen in a recent series of attacks.

Violent raids by Brazilian security forces

A New York Times opinion piece argues that Brazilian police raids have been excessively brutal and are not effective in combating organised crime in Rio de Janeiro. The region’s governor authorised the use of lethal force in 2019 and security forces were responsible for 1,810 deaths last year. Armoured vehicles have been sent into the city’s favelas and police have been filmed firing from a helicopter.

CT scan

NSW man hit with terrorism charges

The Australian Federal Police and the NSW Police Joint Counter-Terrorism Taskforce have charged Joshua Lucas, 21, with planning a terrorist act, after a month-long investigation. On Monday, Lucas appeared in court but didn’t apply for bail. Police allege he attempted to buy military equipment and supports far-right ideology. No right-wing groups are currently listed as terrorist organisations in Australia and Labor has proposed a review of classification criteria.

Counterterror technology against Coronavirus

Israeli authorities are using technology normally used to track terrorists to track people infected with the novel coronavirus through their phones, to ensure they are isolated and to alert others in their proximity. Similar measures are used in China and Iran. The move has been criticised by the Blue and White party and human rights groups, even though domestic security service Shin Bet said the technology would not be used to physically enforce quarantine measures.  

Manchester Arena bomber’s brother guilty

Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi, who killed 22 people and injured nearly 1,000 on 22 May 2017, didn’t act alone. On Wednesday, his brother Hashem Abedi was found ‘jointly responsible’ for the terrorist attack and convicted of 22 murders after a seven-week trial. The Guardian reports there were many warning signs of the Abedi brothers’ radicalisation prior to the attack, and a public inquiry is due in June.


Australia imposes further coronavirus travel restrictions

Travel advice for Australians who are considering going overseas has been upgraded to the highest level. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advises all Australians not to travel anywhere outside Australia and strongly recommends that all Australians who are overseas return home as soon as possible. All returning Australians, regardless of what country they’ve come from, will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Travel restrictions put in place around the world

The EU has suspended all travel into the passport-free Schengen zone by non-EU nationals for at least 30 days. Most countries have suspended non-essential travel, and many of Australia’s neighbours, including New Zealand and Solomon Islands, have imposed requirements for 14-day self-quarantine for all arrivals from other countries. The United States has restricted all travel involving China, Iran and many European countries.

Zimbabwe–South African border restructuring

Zimbabwe and South Africa will jointly implement more streamlined border security arrangements. People and vehicles crossing the border will be processed by both countries in a single facility at the Beitbridge crossing. An average of 14,000 people use the Beitbridge border post daily and both countries hope that by consolidating processing they can reduce illegal border crossings and smuggling.

First responder

Vietnamese rapid Covid-19 test kits in high demand

Vietnam is exporting thousands of its newly approved Covid-19 test kits to Italy, Ukraine and Finland. Each kit costs between $28 and $43 and contains enough material to test 50 people. The test produces results within two hours and is in high demand. Nearly 30 countries, including Australia, Cambodia, Poland, Germany and Ireland, have also asked to purchase the kits.

Refugee resettlement travel suspended

The International Organization for Migration and UN High Commissioner for Refugees have announced a temporary suspension of resettlement travel for refugees. The decision was prompted by the increase in international air travel restrictions in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Humanitarian organisations are concerned that the suspension poses serious health risks for vulnerable refugees facing instability, overcrowded conditions, and a lack of access to sanitation and health care.

Central African Republic criminalises recruitment of child soldiers

The Central African Republic has criminalised the recruitment and use of children in armed groups and other crimes. However, more than a dozen armed groups control around 70% of the country and it’s unclear how effective the law will be in practice. The Central African Republic is regarded as the world’s most dangerous place for children, with more than 13,000 children having been recruited to militias and 1.5 million children on the brink of starvation.