Commitment to helping the forgotten refugees
Australia's humanitarian commitment has extended its reach to new parts of the world to target the ‘forgotten’ refugee populations, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said today.
Speaking at a World Refugee Day event in Fremantle, Senator Evans said Australia's 2008-09 humanitarian program had focused on the resettlement of ethnic minorities in some of the most desperate situations in the world.
‘In the past year, we have welcomed more than 500 Bhutanese people from refugee camps in Nepal,’ Senator Evans said.
‘I have already stated my long-term commitment to this group and we will continue to see Bhutanese arrivals throughout the coming years.
‘We have also welcomed the first Burmese Rohingya families who have been living in desperate situations in Bangladesh and continued the resettlement of Burmese people from camps on the Thai Burma border and from other countries in the region.
‘We have delivered on our commitment to resettle an extra 500 Iraqi people who had sought refuge in neighbouring countries in the Middle East.’
Senator Evans said Australia was one of the few countries that had expanded its resettlement program despite the difficult economic climate.
‘Australians are recognised for their willingness to help others and we should all feel proud of our contribution to providing a new life for some of the world's most vulnerable refugees,’ Senator Evans said.
‘We will continue to consolidate our efforts in 2009-10. In last month's Budget, the Australian Government increased its humanitarian program to 13 750 places for 2009-10, an increase of 250 places.
‘Our humanitarian response is not just about resettlement – it is about providing lasting solutions for huge numbers of people. It is also about contributing to international efforts to make many people's lives more secure.
‘Sometimes nothing can be done; people have no choice and we have to step in – as has been the case this year in our decision to resettle a very vulnerable group of Somalis who fled to Eritrea. We are also helping Palestinians from Iraq who have fled to Syria.’
The minister today released a new publication detailing Australia's role as one of the world's top refugee resettlement countries.
The new edition of Refugee and Humanitarian Issues: Australia's Response includes information on Australia's Humanitarian Program and recent initiatives developed to assist refugees. It also contains personal stories from former refugees who have come to Australia under the humanitarian program.
Refugee and Humanitarian Issues: Australia's Response will be distributed to schools, libraries and community organisations with an interest in Australia's efforts to assist in the protection of refugees worldwide. An electronic version can be downloaded.
‘World Refugee Day is an opportunity for Australians to focus on the good work we have done to assist people in need and also to celebrate the incredible contributions refugees make to their new communities,’ Senator Evans said.
‘With its rich history and modern mixture of cultures and nationalities, Fremantle is a wonderful place to celebrate World Refugee Day and Australia's commitment to giving vulnerable people new lives free from fear and persecution.’
Last update: 19 June 2009 at 19:24 AEST