Police have arrested more than 600 people in Australia in a crackdown on what they say are drug-dealing and other crimes in a sweeping crackdown on illicit drugs.
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said in a statement that arrests were made “in connection with ongoing drug-related investigations”.
“Officers have made arrests across the country to ensure public safety,” the spokesperson said.
The crackdown has been widely criticised as being overly broad and disproportionate.
According to the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, in Australia more than 4,500 people were arrested over the course of the crackdown.
Read more: Drug-dosing: Australian police raid houses to arrest ‘drug kingpins’The crackdown, which is expected to last about three months, has been criticised as too broad and too disproportionate, and also because it disproportionately targeted poorer communities of colour, with a recent survey finding a higher proportion of people arrested were from poor or disadvantaged communities.
“The vast majority of those arrested were not involved in drug dealing or dealing in any other form of illegal activity,” said the report.
It said police have been instructed to not only arrest people on suspicion of drug trafficking, but also anyone “in possession of illegal drugs”.
It also recommended the government “provide a greater level of support to people involved in the production and distribution of illegal substances” and “develop a national drug strategy”.
In February, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released a joint statement condemning the crackdown and called for “a review of the existing Australian Drug Strategy”.
“Australia has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and in some cases the highest rate of drug use among developed countries,” they said.
“This is a public health crisis and it needs to be addressed urgently.”
The AMA and DPA called for a review of existing Australian drug strategy.
In a joint letter to the Home Affairs Minister, the AMA and the DPA wrote: “Drug misuse is a social issue that has been linked to significant social harms and harms to the community.
This includes the high rates of drug addiction and dependence, the social isolation, and the health impacts of drug misuse.
Drug misuse can lead to significant harms to individuals and communities, including violence, crime and loss of income, and these are compounded when people are vulnerable to abuse and dependence.”
Read the full AMA statement below: AAP/ABC NewsTopics:drugs-and-substance-abuse,drug-use,drugs,government-and